The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Security gap at pools to let blame slip

To duck the blame, do away with inept manpower. This is mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s logic to protect civic authorities from becoming soft targets after any accident in pools maintained by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

The civic body has decided to withdraw its securitymen from all CMC-controlled pools in the wake of two deaths by drowning at College Square and Subhas Sarobar over the past week.

According to sources, security guards were not around when a youth drowned in the CMC-run College Square last week. Subhas Sarobar, where kindergarten student Bismoy Biswas drowned during a practice session on Friday, however, does not belong to the CMC.

Mayor Mukherjee’s logic behind the decision to pull out security from the pools is very simple: “Guards never attend their duties. And if our men are not there, no one can blame us. As long as our securitymen are around, people will find it easy to point fingers at us after any unfortunate incident and claim compensation.”

Besides, according to Mukherjee, the cash-strapped civic body can scarcely afford to employ too many people. “So what is the use of just one or two guarding an entire lake or tank'” he reasoned. “It is almost as good as not having anyone to guard the premises. Hence, the decision to do away with the few and inefficient guards that we have. This way, we gain both ways.”

There are six swimming pools across the city — Tallah, Deshbandhu Park, College Square, Azad Hind Bag (Hedua), Puddapukur Lansdowne and Padmapukur Kidderpore.

According to member mayor-in-council (parks and gardens) Hridayanand Gupta, the CMC will ask local clubs and welfare associations using these waterbodies to engage private security guards.

The civic authorities, however, have plans to fence all swimming pools in the city. Local welfare societies would be entrusted to take care of their security.

“Ragpickers and drug peddlers regularly steal portions of iron fencing from a number of parks and squares. They sell these to scrap-dealers at throwaway prices,” pointed out the mayor. According to Mukherjee, the CMC has taken up a Rs 5 crore scheme under the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded Calcutta Environment Improvement project to revamp the six swimming pools and about a dozen parks across the city. There are over 300 parks, gardens and minor squares in a deplorable state, due to lack of maintenance.

Realising that his pledge to set up 100 new parks is still just a dream, the mayor is considering a proposal to extend civic help in developing and beautifying parks on private plots.

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