Tourism authorities warn selfie seekers with aggressive social media campaign, but skeptical lifeguards want tougher measure
A teenager died after accidentally shooting himself in the head while taking a selfie in Punjab recently. Ramandeep Singh (15) was posing with his father's pistol when he accidentally pulled the trigger. The safety catch was not on.
College students click a selfie at Carter Road. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Statistics put India, top of the list for selfie-related deaths. Of 49 fatalities over three years worldwide, India accounted for 19, which is nearly 40 per cent of the global total.
Recognising selfie dangers especially in this tourist season, when beaches are a big draw, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has started an awareness drive on social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to make tourists aware of the hazards of selfies. Paraag Jaiin Nainuttia, MTDC Managing director said, "We educate tourists on possible selfie dangers, through our active social media handles."
Some of the tourism authorities catch lines for social media selfie awareness are. ''My selfie is a safe selfie' and the more dire, 'Let this selfie not be your last selfie.'
Mumbaikars will remember a 17-year-old girl taking a selfie, who was swept away at a Bandra sea shore, and a man who tried to rescue her at Bandra Bandstand, who died during the attempt. Then, a group of youngsters had a near-to-death selfie experience recently, while clicking a picture at the end of a high cliff in the Sahyadris.
Lifeguards though, who are already seeing the first tourists trickle on to beaches, want more measures on the ground. D Bunty Rao, lifeguard at Baywatch Lifeguard Association which mans Juhu beach, said, "MTDC does all this off field awareness, but at the beach, when people take selfies at dangerous places, we cannot do much to stop them. They argue with us and even threaten to hit us. Instead of these social media initiatives, immediate, on the spot action should be taken against people who go deep in the water or climb steep rocks to click selfies."
The selfie scene is rife and especially foolhardy at Marine Drive and Girgaum Chowpatty, which is already seeing larger crowds than usual, as holiday season takes off. Raghuram Naik, lifeguard said, "After a January drowning incident in Bandra, certain spots in Bandra, Mahim, Juhu, Colaba, Marine Drive, Sion, Worli and Gorai were declared 'no selfie zones'. But does the common man know, or care for that matter? They continue taking 'thrill' shots, often, at the cost of their lives. We have very little authority to stop anybody."
Mumbai forts, like beaches are favourite selfie spots. Prerna Malik has witnessed heart stopping selfie stunts while on her daily walk near the Fort. "I have seen people climbing the pinnacle of the fort, doing some weird antics while clicking a selfie. They refuse to listen to the security guard. If they fall from that height while taking selfies, it means sure death."
Worli Village resident, Tina Fonseca said, "The Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL) and the Worli Fort, are a favourite selfie site. The Fort walls are slippery, and consequently precarious, because of the proximity to the sea. That does not stop kids from clambering on these hazardous walls for selfies. We need police action."
While tourism authorities have a limit to what they can do many think it is only fines that can bring about some change. Milind Mani is a regular walker at Nariman Point. He said, "Families go amidst the tetrapods to take selfies. These people seem brainless, only fines or even arrests can work. The crazy things people do for a picture astound me."