BHOPAL: A 28-year-old unemployed school dropout Nitin Batham was honoured by the Bhopal district administration on Saturday for saving eight youths from drowning in the Chhota Talab (Lower Lake) after their boat capsized during the Ganesha idol immersion early on Friday morning.
Batham was honoured by the district collector Tarun Pithode with a cheque of Rs 50,000 in the presence of the DIG-Bhopal Irshad Wali. At the program, the braveheart swimmer was also promised a government job for his lifesaving feat. His name will also be recommended by the administration for the National Bravery Awards.
A resident of the city’s Chola area, who dropped out of school in Class VIII, Nitin was present at the lake to watch the idol immersion when he saw the overcrowded boat capsize near the Khatlapura Ghat at around 4.30 am on Friday.
Nitin, who has won medals in swimming and diving at school level, immediately rushed on another boat to the spot where the 19 youths forming part of the Ganesha idol immersion procession from the city’s Piplani area were drowning and crying for help.
“I rode the boat and took it close to them and saved eight youngsters who were drowning. Had three to four more braveheart swimmers been there to help me, the other 11 youngsters who died in the accident too would have been saved,” Nitin told Express, while claiming that the home guards and disaster response force personnel arrived there at least 20 minutes after the incident.
It’s not the first time Nitin has saved people from drowning, as in the past too, he claims to have saved a few people including a Nepali boy from drowning in the ponds and lakes of Bhopal, but those feats remained unsung.
“When I was aged around 15, I found an idol of one of the Jain Tirthankars, while swimming and diving in the Lower Lake. It was stolen from a Jain temple and the Jain community honoured me for that feat,” recounted Nitin.
The young braveheart, however, was disappointed about what happened at another function in city’s Jahangirabad locality to honour him. “A local municipal councillor Rafique Qureshi took me to a hall in Jahangirabad, where I was to be honoured by local Congress MLA Arif Masood. But I was shocked to see four other people being feted along with me for saving precious lives during the accident in Chota Talab. Had those four people, who claimed to have saved lives with me, actually been there, then all the 11 youngsters who drowned in the lake would also have been saved. Is the Congress MLA trying to defame me,” said Nitin.
Meanwhile, four people, including a revenue inspector, an executive engineer of Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC), the BMC fire safety officer and one assistant sub-inspector of police have been suspended for lapses over the accident.
However, no action has been initiated so far against around 10-15 cops who despite being deployed on duty during the Ganesha idol immersion near the Khatlapura Ghat had reportedly left the place around an hour before the mishap happened. Those cops included Mahila Thana in-charge Ajita Naiyar, a senior ranked cop Abdul Alim Khan and a sub-inspector posted at Talaiya police station.