Thursday, June 11, 2009

Drishti moots ESMA to counter attacks on Goa beach lifeguards

The recent spate of attacks on the lifeguards manning Goa's beaches under the banner of the contracted agency "DRISHTI special response services (DSRS) " surf life saving Goa, has prompted the directorate of tourism to move a proposal to the government of Goa to bring the lifeguard agency currently on a contractual obligation, under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA).

The department has maintained that Drishti which was hired to maintain surveillance on Goan beaches was not receiving proper assistance from the state police. Citing specific instances the director  of tourism Mr Swapnil Naik informed the ad hoc committee on tourism of the state legislative assembly presided by the acting chairman Mr Reginaldo Lourenco, that despite a ban imposed on swimming along the Goan coastline, a group of tourists attempted to swim in the sea on May 27 2009 and upon being objected by the Drishti drishti lifeguards GoaLifeguards, they had a heated argument with them which resulted in the  lifeguards being detained by the Goa Police for one day.

On an average 3 deaths are currently being reported in Goa every month due to drowning incidents on Goan beaches despite all the precautions such as signages which have been put up at all the important beaches in Goa such as Colva, Calangute, Candolim, Baga, with clear detailed information about the tide timings, swimming zones and tide timings and flags being put up in the water to demarcate swimming areas etc.

Due to the stubborn attitude of certain tourists visiting the Goan beaches, the lifeguards of Drishti who are working under the famed system of "Surf Life Saving Goa" (SLSG) , have a dual surf life rescue Goa challenge to comprehend. While discharging their duties to protect the tourists from drowning these lifeguards now also have the added burden of protecting themselves from violent attacks from the tourists themselves. Such attacks and threats from tourists have now become routine and it is believed that over 90 percent of such attacks take place on the three famous beaches of Goa namely Calangute and Baga in the North of Goa and Colva beach in the South.

It is due to the increase in the number of attacks on the lifeguards, that the management of Drishti's SLSG have urged the government of Goa to take immediate remedial steps to prevent such attacks on their lifeguards by declaring life saving as an essential service and recognise life-guarding services as a public duty performance and therefore provide them with adequate protection as is provided to public servants under the Indian Penal Code.

The management of SLSG has also threatened to close down their operations in Goa if there is no adequate protection given to their lifeguards who have been threatened, abused and attacked by violent tourists.

It is reported that recently over six army personnel attacked lifeguards at Calangute when they were informed not to venture into the sea which was very rough on that day. It may be noted that the government of Goa has already informed the public by a notification flags for safe swimming in Goa that they should not venture in the sea  due to the rough sea conditions and the lifeguards were only advising the people about the dangers of swimming at the beaches during the specified period and informing them that in case of any eventuality they would not be in a position to help them in distress. However the warnings of the lifeguards were reportedly met with attacks from the army men and when the beach locals rushed to their rescue what followed was utter chaos which injured the army men with a police complaint being lodged subsequently at the Calangute police station.

In the above fracas, the lifeguards were detained and later arrested by Police and were subsequently released on a bond of Rs 3,000 each although they had not inflicted any injuries on the army men who were allegedly injured in the scuffle with local beach visitors who rushed to the rescue of the lifeguards.

The SLSG has therefore asked the government to step in immediately to relieve the life guards of such attacks and help them to concentrate of their task of saving lives rather than get involved in physical attacks with different kinds of tourists visiting the beach. The agency also lamented that although many complaints were lodged with the police, no action has been taken to prevent any attacks on the lifeguards and only non-cognizable offences a have been registered so far.

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