Last Monday, it was Nandan. On Sunday, it was College Square.
The latest in Calcutta’s long line of deaths by drowning has sparked a blame game over the easy access everyone seems to enjoy to pools on days when trainers are not around. Fingers are being pointed at the keepers of the north Calcutta pool (the six clubs that have their offices there) and the keepers of law over the drowning of Sandip Panda, 13.
Sundays are a problem, admitted secretary Bhaskar Sinha of Vidyasagar Udyan College Square Welfare Committee. “We do not have any training programme for children on Sundays, or any other water-sports programme… Many people take advantage of this break to use the pool on Sundays,” he added.
The six clubs operating from College Square used to have securitymen for the past 16 years, till they were withdrawn on June 4, Sinha said. “Why should we put the lives of our securitymen at risk'” he asked. “Several complaints with Amherst Street police station, about rowdies attacking our guards, and requests to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to provide us with security, have yielded no result,” he said, explaining why the guards were withdrawn.
The last ‘incident’ occurred on May 18, when a securityman was attacked with razors. “Right from local goons to schoolchildren bunking classes, College Square attracts all kinds, and we as a conglomerate of clubs cannot stop everyone,” Sinha said.
Police, however, are not buying the clubs’ argument. “We are there to deal with specific law-and-order problems and anti-social activities at College Square,” asserted deputy commissioner (north) P. Ravi. “But how can the police be expected to keep an eye on who is taking a bath and when'”
The CMC, meanwhile, was still toying with the idea of providing fencing and security to Calcutta’s swimming pools. “We are deliberating whether to utilise a part of the Asian Development Bank funds for the Calcutta Environment Improvement Project for this purpose,” mayor Subrata Mukherjee said.
This lack of administrative will ensures that the death-by-water count remains high in city pools, alleges Sinha. “This January, CMC employee Kailash Ram died while taking a bath,” he said. Last year, a boy died at the Calcutta Sports Association pool in the Dhakuria Lakes, and another girl died at Hedua while swimming there with her siblings and friends.
All six pools in Calcutta (College Square, Hedua, Tala, Deshabandhu Park and the two Puddapukurs in Kidderpore and on Lansdowne Road) suffer from similar problems, Sinha stated. “None of these pools has any security after the trainers leave.”