What has been preventing the Mandya police from ensuring the safety of tourists at Balamuri falls even after the Mandya district administration has imposed a ban on swimming in the river, besides forbidding people from walking on the check-dam built across the river there?
Balamuri is a popular picnic spot near Krishnaraja Sagar Reservoir (KRS) near Srirangapatna. It has received wide exposures in films, print and electronic media. No less than two lakh people annually visit the spot.
But it has turned into a death trap. Officials at the jurisdictional KRS police station say that as many as 300 persons, including women and children, have drowned there since 1985.
Shockingly, around 80 per cent of the victims were tourists who had arrived just to enjoy their holidays. At least 90 per cent among the victims were youngsters.
The waterfalls has claimed the lives of more than 100 tourists in the last eight years and that had prompted the district administration to impose certain restrictions on the tourists. But tourists ignore the safety norms.
A couple of weeks ago, a student from Mysore, a native of Madhya Pradesh, had drowned in the river where he was enjoying his holiday with friends.
No safety measures
Many of the victims were youngsters under the influence of alcohol, says an official at the KRS police station. No agency has taken measures to ensure the safety of tourists at the picnic spot, the official said. There are no railings, lifejackets, security guards, first aid, primary health centre, ambulance and public transport system.
Whilst the jurisdictional police claim that the larger responsibility of ensuring the safety of tourists lies with the Cauvery Neeravari Nigam Ltd. (CNNL), the latter insist the police book cases against the tourists who venture into the river under Section 188 (Disobedience of order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code. Violating district administration orders is an offence under Section 188 of the IPC.
On the other hand, the police urge the authorities concerned to provide safety measures to visitors.
No less than 60 per cent of the victims were under the influence of alcohol when they met a watery grave. Majority of others had ventured into the water without knowing how to swim, police officials say.
According to a senior police personnel, who is familiar with the investigation of most of the drowning incidents, around 95 per cent of such incidents was due to the negligence of the victims themselves.
Tourists consuming alcohol and diving into the water from the check-dam and a tree in the middle of the river is a common scene. A dozen youngsters were seen consuming liquor at the waterfalls when this reporter visited the picnic spot recently.
A senior police officer said that the department would discuss the issue of ensuring the safety of tourists with the agencies concerned shortly besides booking cases against the people who violate the ban order. “The trend of drowning incidents at Balamuri is generally observed from the onset of summer to the end of monsoon,” Rangappa, a local swimmer who claimed that he had assisted the police on several occasions to remove the bodies, said.
The water at Balamuri is always deep coupled with slippery surfaces. And, the river has whirlpools, he said.
With the mercury level rising, people are thronging to the waterfalls in the swift-flowing river. It is the duty of the police and the agencies concerned to be extra vigilant there.
M.T. SHIVA KUMAR
With tourists arriving in large numbers, the threat of drowning looms large at Balamuri