Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Still no ray of hope at Rey

“Youth dies of drowning” - is a headline that does not garner much interest apart from a cursory look. But what about a headline which screams, “Four youth drown within four months at the same spot”? This is exactly what happened on 27 September, a Sunday, when a Class X student drowned in Rey Khola below Gangtok at around 12.30 pm. He became the fourth person to drown at the exact same place at this popular picnic spot in the past four months. Before him, a young driver and two students, just like him, have drowned here.
The first casualties were reported in the month of June when a student and a driver drowned at the said spot within hours of each other. Another school student also lost his life at the spot a month later and now the latest incident; again at the same spot [more details on the incidents are available elsewhere on this blog]. In my previous articles I had tried to convince and caution the concerned authorities and also the public in general about the urgent need to find a solution to this problem.  Sadly, the latest incident only proves that no one has listened.
At the time of this incident, I was barely half a kilometer away from the spot helping out at a neighbour’s  49th day Shegu. When the message of the drowning came, there were more than 20 young people around me but only a few agreed to join me in the rescue operation. When I asked about why people were hesitating to help out, someone shouted, “Later you have to face many problems.” Another boy said, “Police will call you to the thana and ask several questions. Better not to go there…”
Somehow I managed to gather four-five boys and reached the spot. By that time more than a hundred people including two policemen had gathered at the spot. It was a chilling sight. The boy had probably been caught in a whirlpool and his body was still there. One of the victim's relatives was my classmate from school and she came up to me requesting to somehow get the body out of the water.
A young officer, probably the IO of the case was also requesting the crowd but no one was coming forward. I went to the officer and told him that because of bitter experiences in the past no one will come forward in such a situation. The officer tried to convince the crowd saying that it is a case of Unnatural Death [UD] and no one will be interrogated later. But the crowd remained silent. However, the boys with me agreed to participate in the rescue on the condition that someone from the Police should take the first step.
The officer then contacted the thana and asked for an expert to be sent. It took around one hour to reach this brave samaritan to the spot. He was so familiar with the spot because of his past experiences; it took him less than a minute to drag the body out. Salute to this hero!
Some elders who were at the spot, suggested that the whirlpool should be either filled up with big boulders or drained out by using some heavy machinery. A middle aged Policeman complained, “We had put up a banner cautioning people against swimming here but someone threw it away. What can we do?” Some others said, “Securing this spot only will not prevent such incidents from happening.”
My sincere appeal as done in my previous articles is that coordinated efforts in preventing such incidents from happening as well as in rescue operations is a must if we hope to save precious lives in future. With the latest incident, this spot at Rey Khola has recorded the highest number of deaths in such a short span of time.

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