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Govt must provide basic amenities to team keeping a watch on Nalini

THE members of the surveillance team posted to monitor the stranded naphtha-laden tanker MV Nu-Shi Nalini at the Marivel beach at Dona Paula are working for 24 hours without any basic amenities. They have not been given proper space to sit or stand to discharge their duty. The condition of the area from where the team keeps vigil is inhospitable, with stench emanating from open sewers and mosquitoes making life miserable. There are no arrangements for food, drinking water or lights. There are no toilets provided. While the male members of the team ease themselves in the open in the absence of toilet facility, women members have to request house owners in the vicinity to use their toilets. There have been cases in the past in which the state government has been censured by various bodies for not providing their employees on duty basic amenities and provisions. Still the government did not care to provide them to the members of the team who are expected to maintain constant vigil. The irony is that they are the first line of defence, should the ship break or explode!   

The government set up the vigil post after the vessel ran aground on October 25. It did not even think it fit to take permission of the house owner whose space the team is using. The government wanted to contain public unrest by being seen as setting up vigilance. However, they posted a team comprising of a policeman, a talathi and a firefighter to keep vigil on the ship and warn in case of any eventuality. They had no expertise. They were not even equipped with gadgets like binoculars to see if there is any leakage or fire on the ship. Though the vigil post has two entry points, the team has to struggle to reach its perch. The entry and exit points are too narrow and team members have to negotiate these narrow passages which also have various obstacles to reach on the top. They would be left in a precarious position in case any eventuality like fire breaks out.

Despite instances of vessels running aground in the past in the state, the government has failed to set up an apparatus that has some basic skills and equipment while keeping vigil on vessels and firefighting in case of emergency. It is useless posting personnel who do not have any expertise to deal with emergencies. It is providence that no untoward incident has taken place so far, but everything cannot be left to providence. As fears have been expressed about an impending catastrophe taking place in case naphtha on board the vessel is exposed to oxygen, it should have been the government’s priority to put some mechanism in place to deal with such an eventuality. Experts are of the opinion that though the vessel is about 800 metres away from the shore, a blast from it could claim hundreds of lives on shore, besides causing irreparable damage to marine life and ecology. Even the people living close to the Marivel beach were not guided by the government on how to deal with an emergency in case it arises. They have been living in constant fear.

The latest incident of a ship running aground should serve as a warning for the state government to build a system that can take care of the situation in case of an emergency. After dilly-dallying on the issue, the government has finally selected an agency to remove naphtha and salvage the ship. However, the salvage operations are expected to start only after a fortnight during which people in the vicinity would continue to be at the mercy of God. The authorities, who have resorted to haphazard steps following the incident, need to take measures to correct the wrongs that have been done while setting up a vigil post in a hurry. The team posted to keep vigil should be provided with basic amenities and proper food. Absence of basic amenities is not the right way to motivate members of the team posted for vigilance. On the contrary, it might generate resentment against the government. The government might not be morally justified in penalizing anyone for negligence under such conditions.

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