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The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cop warning to picnickers

Nov. 23: River police have sounded a warning to picnickers this winter to stay away from the Brahmaputra in a bid to stop drownings.

Officials at the river police outpost in Pandu, which looks after accidents in and around Guwahati, today said the stretch of the river from north Guwahati to Soonsali was the main area of concern, as the stretch reported around 45 drownings in the past two years.

“We are gearing up to tackle emergency situations during the picnic season but it is always better to take precautions. We have a speedboat and motorboat and our personnel are always ready to respond to emergency situations. We will carry out patrolling of the stretch during the picnic season. Our personnel have been provided with life jackets and lifebuoys,” a river police official told The Telegraph.

Hundreds of people flock to the scenic Brahmaputra riverbanks and spots situated close to the river in north Guwahati, Kacharighat, Noonmati, Soonsali, Hatishila and other places mostly between December and January for picnics.

But these areas often report drownings as many picnickers venture into the river sometimes in inebriated condition. Soonsali reported three drowning incidents last year, when young boys entered the water to bathe and drowned. River police and divers of National Disaster Response Force were called in to carry out search operations but the bodies were recovered only after two to three days.

The repeated accidents prompted the Kamrup (metro) district administration to impose Section 144 CrPC in Kacharighat, Noonmati and Soonsali and prohibited swimming, bathing and washing clothes in the river.

“It’s always dangerous to venture into the Brahmaputra to bathe as the water level is deep and underwater currents are 20 times stronger than the surface,” a police official said.

Additional deputy commissioner Mrinal Gogoi said the district administration has already put up signboards in different locations warning people to avoid taking bath and maintain safe distance from the river to prevent drowning incidents.

“It is not possible to keep watch on hundreds of people who flock the riverbank during picnics and we appeal to the people to enjoy without getting into the water and putting their lives at risk, because we have had several unfortunate drowning incidents in the past,” Gogoi said.

Many residents, however, demanded that the administration should increase the number of boats, carry out river patrolling and deploy some policemen on the picnic spots to keep revellers away from the water.

Deputy commissioner Ashutosh Agnihotri said they would also carry out a sensitisation programme to avoid such incidents.