Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 14: ‘
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the Odisha government to acquire and deploy, without delay, speed boats/ water scooters at the Puri sea beach to rescue people not within the reach of the life guards deployed.
The NHRC’s directive to the Odisha government came in response to a petition filed by human rights activist Akhand in January last year in which he had alleged that the Puri beach had become a killing field for the tourists coming here to enjoy a bath or swim in the sea with the state government doing precious little to prevent such deaths which can be easily avoided.
In his petition, the activist had alleged that the world famous Puri sea beach was unfit for bathing because of the high tides in the sea here. In the last five years, over a 100 tourists had lost their lives while bathing in the sea but the government had done nothing to prevent such deaths. He said 18 tourists had drowned in 2012, 16 in 2011, 14 in 2010, 21 in 2009 and 17 in 2008 while bathing at the Puri beach.
The apex rights body had then asked the chief secretary to inform it of the steps it had taken to prevent such deaths within four weeks. While admitting that the sea at Puri was not suitable for bathing because of the high tides, the Puri collector, SP and additional secretary Home department, in their reports to the Commission, had said that a helpline for tourists had been set up, 123 home guards from the local ‘Nolia’ community deployed, three police assistance centres, five watch towers and 30 signboards in different languages put up on the beach.
This apart, the government had also taken steps like provision of free life jackets by voluntary agencies, arrangement for police patrolling, airing of awareness advertisements in television channels, availability of funds for tourists in times of emergency, training of tourist police etc, said the officials in their reply.
Basing on the arguments of the rights activist that these steps were not being properly implemented, the Commission directed the government to ensure the strict implementation of the steps mentioned by it. It further directed that speed boats / water scooters be acquired to rescue the people out of the reach of the life guards deployed without delay.