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Safety challenges galore for Dassam

The body of Hazaribagh schoolboy Shashi Mehta was fished out from Dassam Falls in Bundu on a day both the tourism department and local police swung into damage control mode to prevent recurrence of drowning at the picnic spot.

Divers pulled out 16-year-old Shashi’s body from a 10ft deep cave inside a gorge-like structure around 3pm on Wednesday. The Class X student of St Stephen’s School, Hazaribagh, had slipped into the gorge while trying to cross two boulders for clicking a picture.

Shashi had come to the picturesque tourist destination, about 40km from the Ranchi district headquarters, with a group of around 60 students from the private coaching institute where he studied.

“The boy was hopping from one boulder to the other so that he could take a picture when he slipped and landed in the deep gorge below. Inside, there were about half a dozen small and big cave-shaped stones that killed him,” said Bundu sub-divisional police officer R.S. Rai.

He blamed the visitors’ overzealous nature for the maximum number of deaths at the waterfall.

This is the first drowning incident at Dassam Falls, which witnesses a footfall of around 8,000-10,000 everyday, during this year’s prime tourist season.

But more than the tourists, the district administration and tourism department seem to be at fault for failing to implement safety measures at Dassam Falls and other water bodies across the state even though such incidents are common.

The tourism department seems to have finally woken up from its slumber when it rushed in a bus full of grade III and IV workers from the secretariat to the waterfall for cleaning and barricading work on Wednesday.

Secretary of the department Sajal Chakraborty said they would continue to camp in the area till safety and security measures were implemented by the district administration.

“We aren’t staying here at night, but everyday officials will come in the morning and stay put till the evening. Besides, we are trying to hire at least 15 local youths as supervisors and guards, who will be paid under the Clean India Campaign. From Thursday, the whole area will get bamboo barricades so that no one can go into the water. Earlier, we had planned to put up iron grille, but local officials asked us not to do so as these get stolen. But bamboos don’t have resale value,” he said.

Ranchi senior superintendent of police Bhimsen Tuti is also learnt to have dispatched a force to the site to look after the law and order situation.

However, a government official pointed out that unlike other waterfalls like Johna and Hundru, the risk of drowning is more at Dassam.

“Local groups fight among themselves. While the panchayat body wants development and jobs for youths, another group of villagers is opposed to it. They earn a lot by fishing out bodies and fear that their livelihood will be taken away if security and precautionary measures come up. Hence, they don’t cooperate when the district administration or the tourism department initiates development works,” said an official who went to the spot to hire divers and paryatak mitra on Wednesday, but was shooed away by some villagers.

Do you think Dassam Falls will ever be safe?