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Boy dies in pool after cop fright

Calcutta, June 22: A teenage boy drowned today in the College Square swimming pool after policemen gave chase to keep the pool free of unauthorised users.

Sandip Panda, 13, who was not a swimmer, drowned in front of onlookers after he reportedly floated in panic into the middle of the pool.

His mother, Pushpalata, personnel of Amherst Street police station, who were out on a drive to clear the pool of urchins who swim in the absence of qualified trainers.

“They killed my son,” she cried at the family’s modest Beniatola home.

Police brushed aside the accusation. “I have not got the full report. But from what I have been told, it appears that the police arrived at the spot after the boy drowned,” deputy commissioner (north) P. Ravi said.

“They (the police) left after seeing no one,” he said, explaining that the boy’s body was “probably” yet to float up at the time.

On Wednesday, Vikky Mallik, 10, had drowned in the Nandan basement tank after falling in along with his younger brother and a friend.

Sandip, who was to join Class VIII next week, left home around 1.15 pm today with three neighbourhood friends, all aged between 10 and 14.

One of them, Mithilesh Mandal, said Sandip was not a regular at the pool. “We took a ball along and told him (Sandip) we were not getting into the pool,” Mithilesh said.

Sandip was bent on taking a bath and went wrapped in a gamchha. Once at College Square, he got in while his friends played football on the path around the pool. But unlike many others who ventured far out, Sandip stuck to the pool’s edge.

A few minutes into their game, Sandip’s friends saw the policemen approaching. “Hey there, get moving,” the policemen shouted, waving their sticks.

“All of us, who were playing on the edge of the pool, had no difficulty in evading the police cane,” Mithilesh said.

“Even those who were swimming clambered up the edge of the pool far from the cops but we could see that Sandip, who did not know how to swim, was moving away towards the middle.”

The boy apparently panicked on seeing the men in uniform.

When the police left after a few minutes, Sandip’s friends returned to see his body, without the wraparound towel, floating in the pool. “His friends saw what happened,” Pushpalata wailed as neighbours and relatives tried to console her.

A relative, Gopal Panda, asked: “How can we go against all the accounts which corroborate each other'” He was referring to the descriptions of the event given by Sandip’s friends and onlookers at the pool.

Ravi said: “Our men were on a routine drive to keep the pool free of unwanted elements.” “They went there after the mishap and left as the body was still to float up.”

Ravi said Sandip’s death was an “accident”, with which the police had nothing to do.

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