Wednesday 24 April 2024

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Are those who die on roads second class citizens?


Have you ever heard of all tourist taxis being banned from Goa's roads because one of them got into a fatal accident? If one tourist boat sinks, however, all watersports is stopped.

In Goa, people die in road accidents fairly often. Recently, after a spate of fatal accidents, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar convened a high level meeting to discuss measures to bring down the rate of road accidents. We don't know what was discussed and decided, but little has changed on the roads.

The temporary and coincidental spike in fatal road accidents stopped. The media stopped reporting on it. And everyone went back to life as usual...?

What I want to ask here is: Are those who die on roads second class citizens?

It's a strange question. But I ask it in specific contrast to deaths in the sea.

Whenever there are deaths at sea, there is a hue and cry. Deaths on the road barely get noticed by the powers that be (the honourable CM's recent move was a notable exception).

If the death at sea happens in Parasailing, on a JetSki or on a tourist boat then, more likely than not, all watersports activities are banned for between three to five days. Have you ever heard of all tourist taxis being banned from Goa's roads because one of them got into a fatal accident?

Why not? Are their lives somehow inferior or less important than the ones of those who die on a tourist boat?

Deaths in road accidents cannot be completely stopped. Neither can deaths in the sea. It is time the administration realises this. All we can do is put measures into place to minimise both.

That brings me to a report in the 'Indian Express' (an excellent newspaper that, unfortunately, very few people read), which says that last week, when different departments of the Goa government held a meeting to discuss measures to keep the beaches safe, they realised that the actual facts did not support the government's recent simplistic knee-jerk solution to stop beach drownings — ban swimming after 7pm and ban drinking in public places.

While many of the deaths are linked to consumption of alcohol, the data indicates that the maximum deaths are not after sunset, but between 12 and 3 in the afternoon. Two spots are the most dangerous — Baga and Fort Aguada. The tide during the time of death is also very important.

This is a very good sign. It means the administration is now actually looking at the facts carefully before deciding what could be an effective solution. The Indian Express report says officials are looking at rules in other countries to deal with the phenomenon of people going into the sea drunk.

We hope that they also talk to Indians. Shack owners on Goa's beaches, Drishti lifeguards, sailors of the Goa Yachting Association, watersports operators, fishermen as well as other experts who are outside the administration know more about the actual conditions in Goa.

I am sure it has not escaped anyone's notice that foreign tourists who don't know how to swim well rarely venture into the sea. They prefer to sun themselves on the beaches. Most Indian tourists, on the contrary, insist on getting into the sea even if they are unable to swim at all.

For being the foremost beach destination in the country, our beaches are woefully underequipped. There are insufficient public toilets, no lockers, no showers, no changing rooms, no life jacket renting stations. Each beach can have two to three points where these public conveniences are provided at one place. They will encourage people to swim nearby, where they can be easily monitored. Apart from reducing drowning deaths, putting up these facilities will provide respectable self employment for locals.

Many of the answers are right here, not out there.

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

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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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