KOCHI: As many as 102 persons have drowned in the Ernakulam Rural police limits alone in 2021. And continuing incidents of drowning have led to calls for launching a comprehensive programme to provide swimming lessons to a wider population.
Last week, a man killed himself after throwing his two children into the Periyar in Aluva, and experts believe the lives of the children could have been saved if they were given basic swimming lessons in school.
As per the data from Ernakulam Rural police, 77 drowning incidents in 2021 were accidental. Cases of unnatural death were registered in these incidents. Similarly, 25 persons ended their lives after jumping into waterbodies last year. Of the accidental drowning incidents, 62 persons were male and 15 female. Of the suicide by drowning cases, 20 were male and 25 female.
In comparison, there were 99 drowning cases in Ernakulam Rural in 2020. As many as 75 deaths were drowning accidents and the 24 others were cases of suicide and those who died included 72 males and the rest females.
The statewide data presented in the state assembly in October 2021 reveals that 863 drowning cases were reported in the state till that time. The number of persons killed in these accidents was 870 and the lives of 144 persons were saved. In 2020, there were 1,050 drowning cases in which 1,067 lives were lost and 62 persons saved.
According to Ernakulam Rural police chief K Karthick, awareness and infrastructure development could prevent drowning deaths to a certain extent. “Like the campaigns launched to prevent abuse of narcotic products, we are giving awareness at the school level about the dangers of children venturing into the water. Learning swimming is very vital now considering the number of drowning cases reported each year,” he said.
The Ernakulam Rural police have also requested the district administration to install more warning boards on the banks of rivers and other waterbodies. “Following the request, warning boards have been installed in some places where drowning cases are reported frequently. We have requested for more such boards,” he said.
Saji Valassery, who has trained more than 5,700 people in the Periyar since 2010, said more than schools, it is the parents who should take the initiative. Saji gives swimming training during the summer vacation free of cost.
He has trained more than 700 people including partially handicapped persons during the summer vacation of 2022. “Just teaching basics of swimming is enough for a person to stay afloat in case of an accident. For this, the children can be given training in either pools or ponds. The parents have to take the initiative to ensure the safety of their children. The schools can add swimming to the curriculum by providing training at least once a month. The civic bodies can contribute to it by maintaining ponds and giving training to the children regularly,” he said.
Indira Rajan, secretary-general, National Council of CBSE Schools, said children should be given swimming lessons. But implementing it at school level is a herculean task.