Anyone driving towards South Mumbai via the arterial Eastern Express Highway on the mornings of Wednesday and Thursday this week would remember seeing hundreds of runners jogging, running and walking and struggling on a service road starting near Vikhroli East. Near Ghatkopar East it became clear that the run was for police recruitment with pandals set up for the purpose at that end.
While there's the question of why such runs are conducted only for aspirants and once they enter the police force constables seem to free to let fitness take a hike, this is not about that.
The run was for 5 kilometres, which may be nothing worth talking about for the average marathoner, but clearly most aspirants were from the lower middle class and poor homes and many were running without shoes, leave alone proper running sportswear. What clearly made things worse was the weather. The past few days have been the hottest June days in Mumbai in decades. In fact, as this Indian Express piece states, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) warned of high temperatures over Wednesday and Thursday.
Yet aspirants aiming to join the police force at the lowest levels were asked to run, not very early in the morning when the heat would be low, but when the sun was already burning bright and hot. When I passed by that stretch on Wednesday and Thursday I saw runners struggling and no sources of water available throughout the run on the service road next to the highway. It must also be mentioned that the area is a vast open space with hardly any shelter from the elements save a few straggly trees and neither are there any shops for anyone to purchase anything. I saw one collapsed runner and some constables trying to attend to him.
As any marathon organiser would attest hydration is critical during an activity like running, even for trained runners, and these were untrained young men running 5 kilometres on what were among the hottest days in decades. A perfect recipe for dehydration and its tragic and sometimes fatal after effects.
And sadly, that is exactly what happened and horrifyingly has claimed the life of one aspirant and leaving another with serious head injuries in hospital as Mid-Day reports. One more aspirant died after a similar run in Thane.
The piece adds that the reason this happened was because not enough water bottles are provided and many suffer heat strokes. Is it asking for too much for police authorities to perhaps postpone such events when weather authorities have warned of heat waves? Is basic drinking water availability during a 5 kilometre run when most aspirants are not trained runners, don't have basic running gear, and come from poor families, too much to provide?
But in a country where there are thousands of aspirants for each such low level job because youth have few other stable opportunities, what does it matter when some youth die for no fault of their own in the prime of their lives because of the lackadaisical attitude of the authorities? After all, there would be many others to take their places.
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Updated Date: Jun 13, 2014 17:54:03 IST