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Mulshi summer camp tragedy: Notional regulations has ‘deadly’ camps in good health

With no monitoring system or eligibility criteria set by the government, number of summer adventure camps have grown in recent years and so have mishaps 

pune Updated: Apr 30, 2018 14:26 IST
Ashish Phadnis
Ashish Phadnis
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Mulshi,summer camp
Adventure camp organised by Nisarga Mitra, Panvel. Nisarga Mitra, based in Panvel, has been organising adventure camps for children for the past 29 years. They are well known for their rescue missions in Sahyadri. Parag Sarode, a member of Nisarga Mitra, said, “There are no rules or regulations regarding the organisation of adventure camps, but a government resolution issued a few years back is applicable for all adventure sports. There is a need to specify every adventure activity and the norms are set accordingly.” (HT PHOTO)

The need for regulations at summer camps has come to the fore after three students from Chennai participating in a summer camp drowned in the backwaters of the Mulshi dam on Wednesday. The Mulshi-based group, which had organised the summer camp for these students, is not registered, say police officials. While summer camps in the district have flourished over the years, there still are no regulations covering it, leading to many avoidable accidents.

Police officials say it is mandatory to register any such organisation at the district collector’s office. “Many organisations don’t inform the local police or administration before conducting a camp. They just advertise and bring children to such camps. We only come to know about such organisations if a mishap occurs,” said assistant police inspector Uddhav Khade.

On Wednesday, around 20 students and four teachers from the ECS matriculation school, Chennai, were attending a summer camp on wildlife and agriculture, managed by Jackline School of Thoughts, which is not registered, according to Wakad police officials. Police have booked four persons, including two from the organisation, in the case related to the mishap.

“This group was formed by two persons and they were joined by two others later. They don’t have any registered institute. Therefore, we have booked them under Section 304 (a) (causing death due to negligence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), but they received bail on Friday. Following the mishap, the remaining children left for Chennai,” said assistant police inspector Uddhav Khade.

When asked whether the police will take strict action against such unregistered adventure camp organisers and will keep a check on them in the future, he said, “We always take necessary action against people who violate rules.”

Even though Khade stressed that prior permission is required to conduct an adventure camp, camp organisers said that they were never asked to take permission from any authority.

Nisarga Mitra, based in Panvel, has been organising adventure camps for children for the past 29 years. They are well known for their rescue missions in Sahyadri.Parag Sarode, a member of Nisarga Mitra, said, “There are no rules or regulations regarding the organisation of adventure camps, but a government resolution issued a few years back is applicable for all adventure sports. There is a need to specify every adventure activity and the norms are set accordingly.”

On July 12, 2013, the Bombay high court had ordered the Maharashtra government to issue a government resolution regulating adventure sports activities. Thus, on June 26, 2014, the culture and tourism department issued the resolution and had implemented a specific set of rules and regulations for all adventure activities in the state.

“For conducting adventure camps for children, one must make sure that the organisers are well-trained. They should have adequate knowledge and experience in handling children. They should also be well versed with the terrain and water bodies near the area where the camp is scheduled to happen. In case of the Mulshi tragedy, I was told that one teacher just entered the water and declared that it’s safe for children. That is the wrong approach and was irresponsible on part of the teacher. Unless you are fully aware of the risk factors, you should not allow kids to go near dangerous regions; that’s the most basic rule while organising a camp for children,”added Sarode.

He also stressed that organisers must have enough number of instructors or volunteers at the camp site.

“As per our rules, we provide one instructor for every three to four children. The organisers must have at least 10-12 years of experience in adventure sports and must have a plan of action ready in case of an emergency ,” said Sarode.

Echoing Sarode’s opinion, Gulzar Shaikh of Azam Sports Campus, said, “Parents should check the reputation of the organisation they are sending their kids to. Secondly, organisers should also check whether the participants are physically fit or not. There should also be a set of norms emphasising on how much strenuous activity is adequate for participants of a certain age.”

First Published: Apr 28, 2018 15:04 IST