Locals are upset with government apathy towards their demand for lifeguards and a safety barrier on the beach; Monday’s tragedy has brought the spotlight back on Murud
Mohan Maku and Ravi Sakharkar, the two heroes who saved six students from drowning in Murud, may not jump in again to save others. And the reason behind this is the apathy of the government towards locals’ demands for a wall to barricade the portion of the beach where most deaths take place. The Mahadev Koli Samaj, to which both Maku and Sakharkar belong, are upset that the government is not paying heed to their requests of restarting lifeguard services at the beach, which will not only provide locals with employment, but also help tourists stay away from the danger zones of the beach.
Mohan Maku and Ravi Sakharkar saved six students from drowning. Pics/Shadab Khan
The Samaj claims that for years, they have been asking authorities in the state and centre to construct a 450-metre barrier that will prevent tourists from venturing into the danger zone of the beach. 14 students drowned on Monday, and several incidents have taken place earlier too.
Arun Kendu, member of Mahadev Koli Samaj, said, “We have had to beat up people who do not listen to our warning, but then how many people can we hold back? Now we have stopped asking people to avoid that side. If they want to die, let them. The authorities don’t support us. We have been writing to the state and the local authorities, asking the government to construct a barrier here, but all our prayers have fallen on deaf ears.”
Arun Sawai, another fisherman, said, “We want lifeguards to be deployed here. No one heeds our warning. Only if there is police or lifeguards, will the tourists listen to them.”
Uday Chogale worked as a lifeguard at the beach in 2008 and 2009. He claims he wasn’t being paid on time by the Zilla Parishad and, hence, he decided to quit. “After I left in 2009, there was no one to take the job. There was always a delay in payment to us. Hence, I stopped working,” he said. There were two lifeguards then.
Krushna Bali, committee member of the Samaj, claims that his office has been continuously following up with officials, to no avail.
“For the past two years, we have been regularly following up with the administration to create a 450-m dam. This will even make fishing easier. It seems no one is interested in helping us,” he said.
Subhash Patil, Peasants and Workers Party MLA, who blamed the ruling alliance, said, “As an MLA, I never got any complaint. But the government should look into this matter. I am ready to issue funds right away for whatever the people of my constituency want.”
Chief Officer of Murud Nagar Parishad, Vandana Gulve Pasarte, claimed that on weekends and on other important days, they have lifeguards posted at the beach. “There are various departments that are related to specific issues. We have people (not lifeguards) posted at the beach but there is no proper infrastructure. We are a small Nagar Parishad and lack of funds is a major issue. Even the project that people are talking about needs a lot of funds. We will be meeting the higher authorities to discuss the issue.”
Rope marks danger line
Some fishermen came up with the idea of demarcating the danger line with a rope tied with red floaters to prevent more drownings.
A fisherman prepares to put up the rope with floaters
“We are doing whatever is possible from our side. We hope people see this rope during high tide and don’t cross it to get to the dangerous side,” said one of the fishermen who was putting it up.