When it comes to accidental deaths, we mostly hear about road accidents. What we don’t know is that over 80 people drown every day in India. This means every 20 minutes someone is drowning! And these shocking statistics are three years old.
More children die from drowning in India than anywhere else in the world. Possibly our heavy monsoons, which cause flooding, increase the risks. As does the lackadaisical attitude of our civic bodies. Drowning deaths are three times higher in rural areas, and more boys drown than girls.
A few days ago a group of five people drowned in a stormy sea off the coast of Ratnagiri. They refused to listen to warnings, and were determined to go swimming. This is a very common occurrence. People not heeding warnings.
The question that arises is: Why? Is it because people are desperate for a swim? Don’t they have opportunities elsewhere? But why risk your life?
The real reason is that awareness of the dangers of drowning is very low. There are so many public campaigns about road safety and none about the dangers of drowning. Few people realise how treacherous sea currents can be.
But people drown not just in the sea and in rivers, but also in ponds, wells, and in open manholes and ditches. I remember the evening years ago when I was hanging out on my balcony of my Juhu home, watching the pelting rain. The road in front was a river. A man was walking by, and only I knew of the six feet deep ditch that lay in front of him because some government workers had dug it up that morning. In the rain, it wasn’t visible. I shouted out, and the man avoided falling into it. I don’t know what would have happened if no one had been around.
Few people think they will fall into an open ditch or manhole. Remember the gastroenterologist Dr Deepak Amrapurkar who did ? Well, it is not just the municipality which is always at fault. In this case some miscreants pulled it open, ostensibly to release the flooding streets of water. This act of vandalism cost a good man his life.
It’s time we start to think hard about how our actions will impact others.
And it’s time that more public swimming pools were developed, to provide formal swimming lessons for the youth. And awareness campaigns to educate people about the dangers of drowning should become a regular feature in schools and colleges. Because mostly it is the youth who drown.