Panambur Beach Lifeguards - The Unsung Heroes of Mangalore
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
Mangalore, Jul 5: Saving lives, by whatever means, is a noble deed indeed. While we hear of doctors and Samaritans saving people from the jaws of death, there is another category of people who do it on a daily basis, the unsung heroes who often go unnoticed.
They are the lifeguards of Mangalore beaches, for whom saving life is a daily routine.
Mangalore is a city of beaches. They are the prime source of attraction for tourists, especially for those who do not live in coastal parts. No tourist to Mangalore returns home without a glimpse of the golden sands and the roaring waves. But it's not only tourists - local Mangaloreans are as much fond of the beach as anybody out there, and weekend trips to Panambur, Tannir Bavi or any other beach is a must for most.
Among Mangalore's beaches, the jewel in the crown is Panambur beach. Why, one may ask, and the reason is the development that has taken place here over the years, not only in terms of introducing attractive rides for visitors, but also the security and cleanliness it maintains.
It was not always so. The credit for making this beach so beautiful goes to Panambur Beach Tourism Development Project, a private firm which has taken the beach on lease for a period of 10 years to develop and maintain it. One may find it hard to believe, but this project is the first of its kind in the whole of India. The beach has undergone a number of changes ever since 2008, when it was given on lease.
Among the many, the most important development at the beach is the installation of lifeguards, the Panambur Beach Tourism Department, that is, the PBTD Lifeguards.
Earlier, the annual death rate due to drowning in Panambur beach was more than 20 deaths a year. But thanks to the lifeguards, it has gone down from 20 to 5 in just the first year of the commencing of the project, 2008 to 2009.
What is more laudable, since 2009 to present, the drowning rate at the beach has gone down to zero, all due to the efforts of the lifeguards.
They have saved more than 50 lifes over the past few years. But the director of PBTD, Yathish Baikampady lamented that out of the 50 who were saved, not even one one reverted with even a smile. He expects nothing from them but good wishes.
He is proud of his young team, numbering around 12, but which becomes quite large when volunteers join in too. It is a team of young and dynamic heroes, picked up from the fishing community, from the Mogaveera community. These lifeguards are highy trained to tackle any situation.
This lifeguards team is recognised and has a tie-up with the Rashtriya Life Saving Society India (RLSSI) and Surf Life Saving, Australia. The highly appreciable fact to be noted is that the Panambur beach has been chosen as the base for lifeguards training in the country, by the RLSSI.
Most of the drowning cases happen due to carelessness or lack of regard for warnings. Most of the tourists listen to the warnings, but for the ones who do not listen, the lifeguard have to be rude and rash, sometimes even having to pull them out from the water forcibly. "It is not wrong to be rash and rude to save a life," says Yathish, "It might be a problem with 1 percent of the crowd, but the remaining 99 percent appreciate it."
An intresting fact is that he never appreciates his lifeguards for saving a life, but instead he questions them as to what they were doing when the tourist was going so deep into the water! This is his way to show his concern for the tourists, as he believes the lifeguards are there to do their duty. "Saving lives is their duty, they are not here for any recognition or rewards," he says.
Accidently getting washed away by high tides is one thing, but there are some who come with the intention of deliberately ending their lives. When the lifeguards find such sort of persons around the beach, they talk to them, understand their probelms and counsel them, eventually saving their lives too.
But lifegurads have a tough time especially in the raining season when the waves are harsh. At such times, its not the Jetski, inflatable boats or the rescue sub-boats that help them to save lives, but its their manpower, knowledge, tricks and skills that work better. Sometimes, only life-jackets and rescue kits are enough.
In other seasons, they have a jeep for emergency purposes, either to move from one end to another or to make an announcement. Now they have also bought two horses and an ATV to serve the purpose, as it is difficult for the jeep to move on the wet sand.
Their biggest accomplishment is that they have achieved a zero death rate from 2009, which they are very proud of. There are also two achievers from Yathish's team who have represented the state and the country in various life saving events - Sanketh Bengre and Tushanth D Bengre.
Yathish says that it would be good if swimming is made compulsary in school curriculum, apart from regular sports. This would also help in decreasing the number of drowning cases, he says.
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