PURI: The Puri sea beach has claimed over 80 persons, mostly students, in the last three years. Unofficial sources, however, put the figure at over 100. The beach is one of the major tourist attractions in the State and people in large numbers visit Puri throughout the year. However, in the absence of appropriate safety measures, a lot of people meet watery grave.
Only last week, four persons were washed away in the heavy water current. While three could be saved, one drowned. Earlier two students - Ramdeb Saha and Santanu Mukherjee - had drowned in the sea on October 19 and 23 respectively.
Again on Wednesday, Kumar Gaurav, a KIIT student, drowned. Three of his family members who tried to rescue him were also washed away only to be rescued by other tourists. They were rushed to the district headquarters hospital where their condition is stated to be critical. On Thursday morning, Alok Mohapatra of Chandikhol met the same fate.
After much hue and cry over the issue by mediapersons, locals and the State Human Rights Commission in 2009, the State Government had expressed concern over spurt in drowning cases and directed the Tourism Department to deploy 100 life guards along the coast. Hoardings and banners on safety measures to be taken while bathing in the sea were also put up at several strategic places.
As per the government directive, 98 youths of the local fishermen community were selected by the police and imparted training in life saving techniques and first aid. They were later deployed as life guards to render service to the tourists at a nominal fee. Besides, a number of watchtowers were erected along the coast for the cops to keep a vigil on movement of tourists.
However, with the rise in drowning cases, all these measures seem to have yielded little result.
Sources said on any normal day, not more than four or five life guards would be found on the beach. The watchtowers too remain occupied by miscreants who indulge in drug peddling.
Likewise, the hoardings and banners put up by the Tourism Department have also worn out and are no longer readable.
Stakeholders in the hospitality department and locals have expressed resentment over the rising number of cases and sought permanent measures by the government to minimise such cases.