The drowning of the 14 computer engineering students from a Pune-based college at Murud-Janjira seems to have jolted the authorities into action. After the incident, questions were raised about the lack of lifeguards on the beach. To address the issue, a meeting was held on Monday between local residents and officials, and it was decided to train and appoint 20 lifeguards there. The 20 have been short-listed from about 50 people who underwent tests for the job before the meeting. They will be given monthly wages and will assist the local police in avoiding such incidents in future.
Rescue operation in progress at Murud beach after the students drowned last week. Pic/Shadab Khan
The meeting was called by the Murud-Janjira Municipal Council. The police, council members, administrative officers, Disaster Management Cell staff, Emergency Medical Unit staff, and local residents, especially fishermen, and representatives of two NGOs, Astitva Life Saving from Pune, and the Uran-based Nagarik Saurakshan Dal attended it.
Umesh Patil, tehsildar of Murud-Janjira said they had been trying to appoint life guards. He said, “The incident is unfortunate. In December 2015, a huge crowd had come to the beach to celebrate. Since then, we had been trying to get trained lifeguards from a couple of organisations, but as they were not available, we had to postpone the idea.”
Vandana Gulwe, chief officer at the council said they will soon appoint the trained lifeguards. “We had called a meeting of all the units so that we can work together as a team. With the help of the NGOs, we have short-listed some 20 youngsters who will be trained as lifeguards. The training will be sponsored by us and the guards will get certificates. The test for youngsters was to swim more than 500 metres in the sea and their timing was recorded. These 20 lifeguards will work day and night, in two shifts and teams of 10,” she said.
Another officer said, “The lifeguard wages will be about R5,000 tentatively, as per the norms laid down under the Minimum Wages Act. We have also prepared additional budgets of Rs 2 lakh for boats and other emergency equipment. We also plan to mark the prohibited areas and place warning boards.”
Dhanraj Shegadu (35), a local resident and fisherman who helped the police and has rescued out some six people in the past three years, was appointed as a lifeguard after the meeting.
For two and a half hours before the meeting, the NGO members trained some local residents and administrative officers for rescue. They were taught how to use plastic bottles as lifejackets during an emergency.
Santosh Ranjankar, a local resident, said, “Since the incident on February 1, there are few tourists, even though it’s the season. But the meeting was fruitful and fishermen and youth will get jobs if they are deployed as lifeguards.”
No picnics for students
Dr Narendra Kadu, registrar of Savitribai Phule Pune University has issued a notification to its departments to temporarily suspend academic tours and picnics for students.
Dr Kadu said, “After analysing the incident at Murud-Janjira, we are proposing new guidelines for picnics that must be followed by all. Till then, there is a temporary stay on such picnics.”
“If tickets have been arranged and cannot be cancelled, then the head of the department will be responsible for the tours.
The students’ security and geographical information of the picnic spot must be studied and departments must be well versed with the surrounding resources,” he added.
As per statistics from the Murud police, in 2014 there were nine deaths and five people were rescued. In 2015, there were two deaths and one rescue.