Panaji, April 25 (IANS) One may just have to wait for a few more years until Goa's beaches have their own avatars of Pamela Anderson-like women lifeguards.
Tourism officials as well as lifeguard service providers rue that virtually no women have come forth to enroll as lifeguards ever since the Goa government privatised beach management services in 2008.
'We are not getting any woman coming forth to become a lifeguard. In 2008, we got three applications, but during the swimming trials they could not make it to the qualification mark,' CEO of Dristi Beach Management services (DBMS), Commander V.K. Tanwar, told IANS.
'We are looking out for female lifeguards. We have even advertised for women in the age group of 18 to 30 who know swimming, but the response has not been very good,' Tanwar said.
Goa is India's first state to privatise lifeguard and beach management services, not quite dissimilar, if not uber-glamorous like the iconic 'Baywatch' television series made famous on American television by the buxom beauty Pamela Anderson and the strapping hulk David Hasselhoff.
Under the present arrangement with the Goa government, DBMS is paid Rs.18 crore by the state tourism department for positing lifeguards along its 105-km long coastline, which is dotted with popular beaches that see millions of tourists annually.
The amount covers costs for manpower, equipment like jet skis, jeeps, floaters, and lifeguard towers.
Apart from a sheer lack of interest from the fairer sex towards 'lifeguarding' as a profession, tourism director Swapnil Naik said not enough local Goan boys were coming forward to take up the job of a lifeguard as a vocation.
'The number of Goan boys applying for positions has dropped. We would like to have a lifeguard service which employs 100 percent of the local lads,' Naik said.
At present 523 lifeguards are protecting Goa's famous beaches like Calangute, Baga, Arambol and Colva. According to Naik, the presence of lifeguards on Goa's beaches since 2008 has resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of drowning deaths - from one person succumbing to the waves every day to virtually one drowning death every month.
'I remember before 2008, it was nearly 100 a year, but now the number has come down to 9-14 drowning deaths in the last few years. The number of drowning deaths has come down even though the number of tourists visiting Goa has increased annually,' Naik said.
Naik said that most beaches in Goa were safe but that a huge number of footfalls on extremely popular beaches like Baga, Calangute and Colva had resulted in a few drowning deaths there.
'Beaches in south Goa are gentle and the slope is less. While on north Goa beaches, the slope is slightly steeper,' Tanwar said.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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