October 21, 04, Hindustan Times
Joyrides, especially those at makeshift fairs and puja pandals, are virtual death rides, says a rights organisation working on consumer safety issues. The Ferris wheel is prone to collapse, as one did in New Delhi in May last year, killing 12 people and injuring 20.
The roller-coaster isn’t safe either – a man also fell off one at Appu Ghar in August last year. The merry-go-round can spin out of control – such an incident injured a few children in Konnagore recently. A month later, three children, aged eight to 10, were injured when a rotating gondola broke from its moorings and crashed to the ground at Baruipur.
Most rides don’t have permission to operate and those that do violate all safety norms. In fact, there weren’t any safety norms till the Bureau of Indian Standards came up with a code of recommended practice for amusement safety rides and safety in water parks earlier this month. The police, who give permission to these fairs, are not even aware of the new norms.
“Accidents have occurred, though most go unreported. We’ve launched a campaign to force the authorities to act on the safety aspect of such amusement fairs,” said Soumi Home Roy, researcher for CUTS- International Safety Watch Group.
An estimated 300 amusement fairs are organised in and around Kolkata during the festive season and over 1.5 lakh people, mostly children, take joyrides on the various contraptions such as the giant wheel and merry-go-rounds every day, generating a daily revenue of around 30 lakh for the organisers.
JOYRIDES GONE WRONG
February 2004: A couple in their 20s suffered serious head and limb injuries when the safety rod of capsule on a Ferris Wheel fell off.
January 2004: A 14-year old boy was maimed when a steel bar of a Ferris wheel at an amusement fair at Ranaghat broke loose and fell on him.
November 2003: Three children were injured during a ride on a routine gondola.
October 2003: Two children sustained serious injuries when a merry-go-round spun out of at Konnagore.
WHAT MAKES THEM UNSAFE
Irregular checking of equipment and machinery
No maintenance of machinery
Machinery operated by persons without technical qualifications
Absence of emergency medical team or equipment in case of an accident
Absence of first-aid kits
Lack of adequate safety measures
No insurance cover
Fair organisers don’t abide by of mandatory safety measures.
“No attention is paid to even basic safety measures, especially in the case of these makeshift amusement fairs. They’re supposed to get permission from the police, but the police are ill-equipped to check the operational safety of the equipment and machinery. None have emergency rescue measures, not even proper first-aid kits,” said the researcher of CUTS, 20-year old body with eight centres around the world.
CUTS is accredited with the UN Conference on Trade & Development and United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and is materially supported by the DFID, WHO, UNFPA, European Commission, Ford Foundation and many countries around the world.
CUTS- Safety Watch researchers have conducted spot checks at amusement fairs and the findings are shocking. No one checks the equipment and even routine maintenance work is not carried out, none have safety instructions or even an emergency manual, none have emergency medical equipment or trained emergency medical teams, none have fire-fighting equipment and many of the rides they offer are downright dangerous, especially for the kids.
“Laws should be framed for issuing certificates separately to amusement parks and amusement fairs with strict provisions for periodic inspection of all equipment. It should be 30 days in the case of amusement fairs and each time such a fair moves to a new location and the equipment for joyrides is assembled, technically qualified teams should carry out inspections before a fresh certificate is issued. There should be provisions for emergency medical teams and insurance cover for these parks and fairs must be made mandatory,” said Roy.