Baywatch Lifeguards Association-India, a voluntary association of lifeguards, has been rescuing drowning people at Juhu Beach for the last five years. Sadly, for all their efforts, nobody has come forward to provide them with the appropriate equipment to do so.
On Saturday, Anita Naik (34), tried committing suicide by entering the sea. A lifeguard on duty spotted her and saved her from taking her own life. While the members certainly do not complain of the work, they rue the fact that they have very little equipment to assist them - the association, with its 88 members, has only one lifejacket, one small rescue boat and four lifebuoys.
There is no first-aid equipment with the group. They are also in dire need of a cabin or an enclosure to keep their own belongings in - they currently keep all equipment in their cars and their bags in a nearby garden. Searchlights and a watchtower are also necessary to monitor activity at night.
Despite these odds, they have managed to rescue hundreds of people since starting out operating on the six-kilometre stretch of the beach five years ago. These were people who entered to commit suicide, devotees who enter for immersion and rituals during the Ganpati festival and Chhat Puja, or simply people who went in for a swim.
Four members of the association stand guard at Juhu Beach at all times - they receive no monetary compensation for the pains they take. Most members take time out from their jobs and professions to be lifeguards at the beach, and work in shifts. The group also has six women rescuers.
Bunty Rao, the lifeguard who rescued Naik, said, "It took me ten minutes to swim and reach the drowning woman. Had we had a kayak boat, we could've rescued her within three minutes. Still, we try our best to save lives." The organisation has also deputed a few lifeguards at the Gorai jetty, where they keep watch without any equipment on hand.
Members have shelled out money from their own pockets to purchase the equipment they have; some locals have pitched in to help. Requests for help to the local MLA and the state government for the last two years haven't yielded responses.
Sayeed Shama, president of Baywatch, said, "We have tried to reach out to politicians for sponsorship, but none of them gave any support. Equipment costs huge chunks of money that we cannot alone afford to contribute. All we can give is our time and efforts, along with manpower."