To overcome the shortage of professional divers, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel will soon train fishermen as divers for rescue operations in rivers and major reservoirs.
State disaster management department (DMD) and fishery department have already screened and selected 48 fishermen from different districts of the state for the purpose. The DMD will equip fishermen with diving equipment soon, officials said.
"Jharkhand has 3,700 fishermen and most of them are great divers. If they get professional training, many lives could be saved in the state every year," deputy director of state fishery department, Ashish Kumar said. Fishery department is helping the DMD to set up the divers' team in the state.
State DMD project officer Colonel Sanjay Srivastava said, "We will soon forward names and mobile numbers of fishermen to each district so they could be utilised during any disaster." He said that the divers would be given official and legal status for the service.
More than 100 people die in rivers, dams, waterfalls and other reservoirs every year, according to a rough estimate of the fishery department. Jharkhand has over 15 rivers, 14 waterfalls and 215 small and large water reservoirs but there is hardly any diver in the state.
At the inauguration of Rotary Park at Ranchi Lake in December 2013, motorboat had been introduced but that had overturned and claimed four lives in the absence of divers. Similarly, an average of eight people die in Ranchi's Dassam Falls and Hatia dam every year.
Taking advantage of non-availability official divers, local divers demand hefty amount for recovering body from reservoir from the authorities. However, the selected fishermen would offer service voluntarily. "Government recognition is enough for us. We do not want money for the service," said Mose Murmu, a fisherman of Dumka district. Murmu can dive 40-feet under the water.
Another fisherman of Ranchi Suresh Nayak, who has saved three lives and recovered two bodies from Button Talab, said, "Our service will be free and we are ready to go anywhere in the state for rescue operation." However, sources in the disaster management department said a certain remuneration would be given them for official rescue operation.
Srivastava said that district disaster management officer (DDMO) would be deputed at each district by August 1 in view of rainy season and upcoming festivals like Shravani Mela in Deoghar and Basukinath and Rath Yatra in Ranchi.