Bhubaneswar: Orissa`s Puri beach, which attracts thousands of visitors every year, is turning out to be a death trap for tourists. Over 50 tourists have drowned off the beach in the last three years, official data says.
Police records say 27 people died due to drowning last year. There were 17 in 2008 and eight in 2007.
The increasing number of deaths off the beach has raised concerns among tourists and tour operators alike.
"We are certainly concerned about the flurry of deaths in the last few years. We are trying to make the foreign tourists aware of the dangers through advisories and literatures. But larger responsibility lies with the authorities to make people aware of the danger," said Himanshu Das, a tour operator.
"There is a clear code of beach safety which is being followed across the world. But none of it is followed in Puri. You cannot even find a display board or distribution of literature or deployment of life guards or life-saving machinery in case of emergency," Das told a news agency.
Concerned over the rising cases of drowning, the Orissa Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has served notices on the state government to ensure the safety of people going to the beach.
"Human life is precious and once it is acknowledged that every year a number of deaths are taking place in a particular area, all efforts must be made to address the problem and provide protection to the visitors," said Justice PK Patra, OHRC chairman.
The commission has also suggested that 60 home guards from the Nolia community (traditional fishing community) be engaged or recruited as life guards, Justice Patra said. He added the OHRC has also suggested that the personnel be trained and provided separate dresses to make them identifiable on the beach in case of exigencies.
Life guards are provided on festive occasions, but according to the Puri district authorities, normal days which witness smaller crowds prove to be more prone to accidents. The authorities have assured an awareness drive in the coming days to ensure the safety of tourists.
"We are certainly concerned about frequent deaths. We have already told our constraints to the Human Rights Commission. If the home department complies with the commission`s directive, these life guards would be deployed on the beach," said Fakir Charan Satpathy, the district collector of Puri.
The district administration has also roped in the service of international scuba diver Shabir Bux to train people in mastering the art of saving lives along the beach.
"Shabir Bux will train people and also create a floating platform in the crowded area to save people from the tragic incidents," Satpathy added.
The proposed mechanism only focuses on a small stretch of the beach; the larger stretch remains vulnerable.