Bhubaneswar: The Odisha administration and media fraternity have expressed shock and anguish over the death of senior TV journalist Arindam Das, who was drowned in the swirling waters of Mahanadi near Mundali barrage on Friday afternoon.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik even sanctioned Rs 4 lakh assistance from Odisha Working Journalist Welfare Fund to Arindam’s bereaved family on Saturday.
However, even 24 hours after the tragic incident, some pertinent questions go begging for answers. And no one even seems to be bothered. But for the answers, Arindam should not have drowned in Mahanadi while covering a seemingly botched up operation to rescue a trapped elephant.
What Were Journalists Doing Aboard Rescue Boat?
There is no answer to how the ill-fated TV journalist and his cameraman colleague, Pravat Sinha, get into the ODRAF boat.
A rescue operation, right in the middle of a swollen Mahanadi, required trained and professional men to do the risky work. Of the seven persons who were on the boat, the two journalists were not trained to tackle such crisis. When the boat rear-ended into the barrage’s drop-down points, all lives were in jeopardy.
The tragedy begs another answer and this time from media agencies themselves. Where do TV channels and other media outlets draw the line on the extent that their journalists can go while covering incidents?
Why Was Operation Launched In First Place?
According to Forest Department officials, elephants are smart swimmers and they don’t need human help to cross a river.
Other members of the same herd that was spotted in Mahanadi on Friday morning swam their way from Athagarh forest towards Chandaka. The ‘trapped” elephant would have eventually moved out once all cacophony around the operation had died down or after sundown, making it an ideal scenario.
Why Was There No Crowd Control?
During the rescue operation, Mundali Bridge was choc-a-block with traffic and hundreds of onlookers filming the incident on their mobile phones. Crowd control was key, but no one gave it a prior thought.
In line with protocols for rescue operations, the ODRAF team should have first clearly demarcated an area, imposed prohibitory orders and barred entry of people from Barang and Athagarh side of the bridge. These steps would have given the jumbo safe passage.
What Was The Logic Of Using Boat For Jumbo In Water?
The authorities could have exercised the option of closing the barrage gates. That would have helped the elephant to stay afloat and swim. Besides, there was little logic behind a team driving a jumbo using an inflated boat with a megaphone from a river. With strong current of water just near the drop-down, using the boat to nudge the jumbo out of its place made little sense.
Who Called The Disaster Relief Team?
The big question is who requisitioned the ODRAF team? State Police said the Forest Department called the rescue team. Forest officials, however, denied the claim. Department.
The issue eventually proved disastrous for the entire operation which could have been carried out without much ado.