Grief-Stricken parents of the victims of Thattekkad boat tragedy have made an unusual plea to the High Court. They wanted the state government to provide mandatory swimming lessons to all school students.
The bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justice KT Sankaran admitted their public interest litigation and directed the state government to consider their request in three months. Fifteen students and three teachers drowned after their picnic boat capsized in the swollen Bhoothathankettu reservoir in Ernakulam in February.
Asokan K lost his twin daughters Aswati and Amrutha (11). He along with Rafel, the father of another victim, and socio-cultural organisation Malayala Vedi pleaded that such mishaps could have been prevented by children knowing basic swimming. The petitioners cited many western countries and China where swimming is mandatory and part of school curriculum. They pleaded that the court instruct the State Education Director and the government to introduce swimming as a practical subject.
“Many young lives would have been saved had they been given basic lessons in swimming. In Thattekkad, rescue started immediately. Yet we lost 18 lives,” president of Malayala Vedi, George Vattukulam, told HT. The Vedi had earlier unsuccessfully petitioned the State Education Director and many others. “Some rescuers told me had they got five minutes they would have saved my twin-daughters. Had they known swimming they would have kept afloat,” said Asokan, who works in a private gas agency. He said most casualties by drowning occur because victims are unable to swim.
“Kerala has 44 rivers and many other water sources. A survey of water-related tragedies would reveal they almost equal road mishaps. But nobody takes notice,” George Vattukulam said, adding about 70 per cent cases could be avoided with basic swimming training.