'All's well at BMC swimming pools where deaths took place'

Apr 25, 2015, 14:43 IST | Sachin Unhalekar

A report put together in just a day after mid-day reported on the Ghatkopar and Shivaji Park pools drowning in apathy suggests that everything is in order; joint commissioner who prepared the report admits he hasn’t visited the pools

If an April 21 BMC report on the Shivaji Park and Ghatkopar pools where two deaths have taken place in as many years is to be believed, everything is going swimmingly well there.

Also read: BMC swimming pools drowning in apathy

At the Shivaji Park pool, the BMC report says that there are 20 lifeguards-cum-trainers, while mid-day had seen just seven, most of whom were busy imparting swimming lessons
At the Shivaji Park pool, the BMC report says that there are 20 lifeguards-cum-trainers, while mid-day had seen just seven, most of whom were busy imparting swimming lessons

The report, which was sought by Additional Municipal Commissioner SVR Srinivas after mid-day reported on the dearth of safety measures, lack of lifeguards and the shoddy condition of equipment at the pools on April 20, contradicts many facts mentioned in this newspaper’s audit.

The BMC report submitted on April 21 and the mid-day report the day before that
The BMC report submitted on April 21

But here’s the kicker: While mid-day actually visited both pools to conduct the survey, Joint Commissioner Shantaram Shinde, who prepared the report for the BMC in just one day, merely sought the ‘facts’ from the contractor and officials responsible for managing the pools, who may have a vested interest in ensuring that the report isn’t critical of the way the pools are run.

Also read: Following student's death, all BMC swimming pools to get doctors

mid-day report the day before that
mid-day report the day before that

Shinde, in fact, admitted to not having visited the pools when he was asked about it at a BMC meet by Prabhadevi Corporator Santosh Dhuri, and also to mid-day.

Fact vs fiction
At the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Olympic swimming pool at Shivaji Park, the BMC report claims that there are 20 lifeguards-cum-trainers 15 men and 5 women out of which only two conduct training and the rest are stationed to rescue swimmers and save lives.

Also read: After man drowns at Dadar swimming pool, BMC dives into action

When mid-day had visited the spot last week, we had seen only seven lifeguards for the nearly 600 people who come to the pool every day. Of these, most were busy training people as it fetches them extra money. The BMC report says that there are several stretchers available, while mid-day had found only one, which was also torn.

We had also seen that most of the floats, meant to aid trainee swimmers, had ropes missing, while the BMC report claims that at least 25 floats are in good condition. We had also not seen any blankets at the pool, which are there according to the report.

The report goes on to say that other equipment like oxygen pumps and safety rings are also available, but when mid-day had asked the BMC officials at the pool about the pumps, they did not know where they were. Taking note of mid-day’s observation that medical officers are lacking, the report says applications will be invited soon.

At Ghatkopar
The major problem at the Ghatkopar swimming pool that we had noticed was that there were only four trainers and BMC officials present at the pool had admitted that they were qualified only to train and not as lifeguards. The BMC report, however, claims that the four trainers also act as lifeguards.

This contention has not gone down well with Suryakant Rode, whose daughter, Kanchan (21) had drowned in the pool on April 3. “If a lifeguard had been present at the spot, my daughter’s life would have been saved,” Rode told mid-day, reiterating something that he has been saying since the incident took place.

Rode said he will file a case against the officials managing the pools and senior BMC officials after the final autopsy report. mid-day had also noticed that the first-aid box at the pool was ill-equipped, something that is not addressed in the BMC report, which just says that first-aid boxes are present.

Official speak
Joint Commissioner Shinde said, “After mid-day reported the issue a report has been sent to the Additional commissioner and the information regarding the pool was taken from the contractor.” He added that the lifeguards have to work as trainers.

Additional Commissioner Srinivas, however, said, “We will change the condition of the pools according to mid-day’s report. Also, the number of swimmers will be regulated by the BMC to avoid any unfortunate incidents.”

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