Tuesday 23 April 2024

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Compulsory life jackets can prevent drownings


A life jacket makes it almost impossible for a tourist to drown, whether drunk or sober.

Goa has had more than its share of drowning deaths this monsoon. Two months ago, a Navy Lieutenant drowned at Cabo de Rama. A wave pulled him into the sea after he accidentally fell from the fort walls on to the rocks.

Two fishermen drowned off the Cabo Raj Bhawan. A BITS student drowned at a beach near Sada. A tourist from Himachal Pradesh drowned after venturing drunk into the sea at Calangute. In the latest incident, a young girl and a boy drowned; they were part of a group of management students who were on a field trip to Goa from Ahmedabad, six of whom decided to go for a swim at 3am in the morning.

Tourism Minister Manohar alias Babu Azgaonkar has publicly urged Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to enact a law to stop people going into the sea drunk, or after sunset. The minister's concern is admirable.

He has engaged with the Goa Police, the Coastal Police and Drishti Lifesaving to step up beach safety and patrolling. Apart from proposals for ambulances for the beach belts, he wants to set up a committee comprising representatives of all concerned agencies, which will meet once a month to review beach safety and water patrol issues.

But surely the minister must realise that no law can stop — or even significantly reduce — the incidence of drowning? There's a law against suicide. Has that stopped people trying to kill themselves?

Once a person ventures into water deeper than the waist, it is the sea (and not the person) that has control over his or her body. In such circumstances, it is very easy to get pulled out into water beyond one's depth by the powerful drag that follows each wave. Tragically, most drownings occur in water that is only a few inches over the person's height. Very few actually have to do with the 'strong currents' that are routinely but incorrectly reported in newspapers.

It's not just tourists that drown. There are several drowning deaths of locals in rivers, where Goans throng in large numbers for day picnics to beat the heat in summer. What are we going to do about that? Ban picnics?

We already have too many laws in this country. Dumping of garbage is banned. Yet, we see it scattered all over our highways. We simply do not have the resources required to enforce a ban on tourists entering the water drunk. Goa gets 60 lakh tourists a year along a 105-km coastline. With a mere 600 lifeguards and even less police personnel, it's an impossible task.

The minister should, instead, think outside the box. He should pass a law make it compulsory for every tourist entering the sea to wear a life jacket. A life jacket makes it almost impossible for a tourist to drown, whether drunk or sober. Even if they are pulled out to sea, they will continue to float and can easily be rescued alive.

Besides, it is much easier for a lifeguard to spot a tourist who is not wearing a life jacket. That person can then be removed from the water — by the police if necessary — and made to pay a fine; like two-wheeler drivers who don't wear helmets.

How will tourists get  life jackets? From life jacket renting stalls strategically placed at every 500 metres on every beach, which allow tourists to use the life jacket for a few hours at a nominal fee. These stalls can be allotted to local youth, who can run them as profitable businesses. Quite apart from effectively drown-proofing tourists, it will be a handy source of respectable self-employment for Goans.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Lifejackets can't be the only solution as the current in the sea is very strong. The area where tides break are crucial where most drowning take place. As you may be aware that rip current are formed at the shore not deep inside. Lifejackets will only give false security to these naive tourist who are not aware of the conditions of sea. Whenever possible one has to swim at beaches guarded by lifeguards, always swim in the swim zones marked by the lifeguard. Most importantly always Listen to Lifeguard.

Apoorv Naik |

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.


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