A man was reported missing in Jeramsar lake in Mundra village of Kutch on Tuesday after he jumped into it to retrieve a coconut thrown into the water by the village sarpanch, as part of a ritual to celebrate the overflowing of the lake for the first time in 15 years. Rescue operations were on till late evening.
Police said that the village panchayat had not sought any prior permission for the event.
Police said that the man was identified as Jakir Kara (25), a native of Bedi area in Jamnagar district. “He was among three-four youths who jumped into the lake to fish out the ceremonial coconut thrown in the lake as part of celebrations, around 11.15 am. While others managed to swim to the bank, Kara started drowning and is missing. An operation is on to rescue him,” Mundra police inspector BJ Bhatt said.
The incident took place in full public view when Mundra village sarpanch Dharmendrasinh Jesar and Virendrasinh Jadeja, BJP MLA from Mandvi constituency, were performing the ritual of worshiping the lake that had overflowed. After prayers, the sarpanch threw a coconut into the water for local youths to fish it out and win a complimentary prize.
“As part of the age-old tradition, we threw the coconut into the lake and a few youths jumped in to fish it out. We had announced that whoever would jump in the water body would do it at own risk. I don’t know if anyone could manage to reach the coconut and if he was given the prize. Just as I and our guest of honour, the MLA, were leaving the lakefront, we were told that a youth was drowning,” Jesar told The Indian Express over the phone.
Jesar said that he was told that the youth had jumped into the lake from the front opposite to the one he and others were performing the ritual. “We have launched a search and rescue operation. A team of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF), marine drivers from Mundra port and local swimmers are scouring the lake. They didn’t make any breakthrough till 5 pm,” the sarpanch added.
The MLA could not be reached for a comment.
Incidentally, Mundra has been receiving heavy rain for the past three days. The incident comes two days after five persons were swept away in a flooded river in Dhrang village of Mundra taluka following heavy rain on Sunday. Three of them were found dead while one died at a hospital.
Senior Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, via a post on Twitter, requested Chief Minister Vijay Rupani to send an NDRF team to rescue the youth. Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi also questioned the large gathering at the event. “No rules, no social distancing. As per government rules, the Epidemic Act, why did the administration grant permission?” Doshi asked.
However, the sarpanch said: “Residents of Mundra were overjoyed by twin good news – the state government declaring Mundra-Baroi group village panchayat a municipality and the Jeramsar lake overflowing after 15 years. It was not possible to contain the enthusiasm of people who turned up at the lake to witness the historic event,” Jesar said.