An extraordinary service
Bob Hope, a famous actor and an author, wrote on success: “Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. Its what you do for others.” An activity which helps others has its own rewards as exemplified in this narrative.
About 80 people drown every day in India, or more than 29,000 people every year. This data was released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). In fact, from 2010-14, each year recorded an average of 25,000 deaths by drowning, in our country. According to a WHO report, that on a global scale, 1008 die every day due to drowning, and thus accidents involving drowning is the third leading cause, in the world, of unintentional death. More than half of those who drown, in the world, are below 25 years of age. The statistics articulate a clarion call to safeguard our people from these disasters. A question assails us: if our efforts begin with preventing accidents in the water, how will this complex task be planned? India is a vast country, and with its diversity, gives the matter of logistics some challenges. A person with calibre, conforming to this role, may successfully meet the demands of synchronizing activities, and adopting a methodology which encompasses the length and breadth of India. An organization Rashtriya Life Saving Society-India (RLSS-I), has been formed and incredible as it appears, India has been blessed by a personality, who had devoted decades in the Indian Navy, retired as a Rear Admiral, and resolved to help redeem a series of tragedies, that have entailed drowning. Rear Admiral (Retd.) P.D. Sharma crystallized a vision that both he and his wife, Kavita, decided to first study as a microcosm, by scrutinising a map of the sub-continent, and then expanding a programme, to embrace every part of the country into their fold. The journey that unfolds is mind boggling by the mere fact that the entire plan has cruised along ever since RLSS-I was founded on August 22, 1998. Both Rear Admiral P.D. Sharma and Kavita, the President and Vice-President respectively, were felicitated on November 22, 2016, by The Queen, at Buckingham Palace, London, who presented Rear Admiral P.D. Sharma and his wife Kavita, the Commonwealth Award. A peremptory review is essential to enlighten every organization, institution, unseen corner reaching out to the remotest village, where the RLSS-I will appear and teach people to protect themselves from drowning — be it a village pond covered with an impenetrable mass of water hyacinth, or a swimming pool, a river or even the mighty ocean; this organization engulfs just about everything with its humble ethos and is a non-profit making activity. It is a service to the nation, a service that every citizen of our vast country must know. We need to believe how the tenacious efforts of this husband and wife team have connected into our country and in their own way have elucidated an extraordinary dimension to the word-protection.
The founder, Rear Admiral Sharma’s determination came into effect when he read the horrifying details of the number of people who drowned every year, in India. Both he and Kavita began an incredible journey. Their training programmes in Kerala was highlighted by the government there; interestingly, Kerala has many water bodies and this intensified the involvement of RLSS-I in that state. They went through central India, also into Bengal and Assam where they began with the Assam Valley School; this school, owned by the Williamson Magor Group, ensures that every student is trained to swim, is taught to help, rescue another swimmer, and administer First Aid, if necessary. The RLSS-I have included Assam and Arunachal Pradesh’s fast flowing rivers, into their training programmes; these rivers, which originate from the Himalayas, have taken away many lives. But Rear Admiral Sharma has designed a manual and a few rules are: never go into a river alone, never jump from a great height like a tree or bridge, make sure both feet are firmly on the river bed. To gauge the current, check by throwing a bit of wood or a bottle, and assess the speed of it drifting. He warns of the dangerous difference when a river has a separate rate of a current on the surface compared to a different current within its depths. Apparently human beings are not good swimmers and being aware of this factor excludes the possibility of taking risks. The core value of this programme is not to prepare a person for the Olympics! On the contrary, it teaches people to be safe in water and to be of help to other swimmers around. In addition, the organization conducts certifications in Resuscitation (CPR), First-Aid, Lifeguards, and Life Saving; the RLSS-I is based at Pune.
Rear Admiral Sharma was elected as President of International Life Saving Federation’s Asia-Pacific Region, in 2012. The first ever person to hold such a position from Asia.
by Deepak Rikhye