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mid-day editorial: Stop horsing around with safety

The death of a 32-year-old Mumbaikar after she fell off a horse in Matheran has highlighted the glaring lack of medical facilities at the quaint hill station. There was a possibility that she could have been saved, but the nearly 100-year-old local hospital did not have the facilities to handle a fracture, let alone a grave head injury like the one Neelam Singh had suffered.

The front-page report in this paper yesterday cited how she received a basic patch-up, before her family took her to the nearest hospital in Panvel. Much precious time was lost in the 2.5-hour journey there, as Neelam lay bleeding in the ambulance.

While quite a few tourists have died in similar accidents in Matheran, it is the glaring lack of medical help that is most shocking. It is frightening to think that a hill station that sees such a rush of tourists doesn’t have basic medical facilities. One issue is that road access to Matheran is not easy, because cars are not allowed there. That is, of course, a good thing and one of the features that makes Matheran truly unique. However, this means that local infrastructure — like medical clinics and hospitals — has to be very strong, so that locals and tourists do not waste precious hours in case of an emergency.

Tourists must also wear riding helmets. Let us not put the onus on the authorities or the horse owners and handlers to provide helmets, but carry them ourselves. Experienced horsemen also say that it is always wiser to go slow on horseback. In many instances, tourists insist on riding alone, leaving behind the horsemen. This is ill-advised, however confident a rider you may be. It is always better that the ‘ghodawalla’, as they are called in the local lingo, walks with you or is at least within visible distance, so he can control the horse if things go wrong. These solutions are the need of the hour if we are to prevent another joyride from turning into a nightmare.

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