A beach out of bounds for people

Too many eyeing their pie here

A beach out of bounds for people

Pilgrims are now allowed only to take a holy dip in the sea on Karthika Pournami day.

Till six months ago, it was one of the sought-after beaches in the Andhra coast line. Now, it is closed and the reasons are many and they depend on from whom you elicit the answer. Entry to the Tallapalem beach, also called as Manginapudi beach on the shores of Bay of Bengal in Andhra Pradesh, has been closed by the district authorities. Barbed wire fencing has come up and signboards have been displayed, stating that the beach is out of bounds for people. All one can see now is abandoned cottages, collapsed rusted
electricity poles, shut-down shops and hotels, and the haunting roar of the sea.

The reason for the deserted look from the past six months was its closure for the public by the district administration. Heaps of garbage greet the odd visitor. One has to hire an autorickshaw as the state road transport corporation withdrew bus services to the beach from the nearest town and Krishna district headquarters Machilipatnam, some 12 km from the beach.

Matta Nageswara Rao, who owns a seashell shop on the beach, draws a parallel to Mahabharata to drive home his point on the closure of the beach. “Just like there were many players involved in the killing of Karna, the death of this beach has many
reasons,” he added. Matta, born and brought up on the shores of Tallapalem beach, is fighting a lone battle with the administration to reopen the beach. In fact, with his efforts only the authorities recently relaxed the ban to allow pilgrims to take a holy dip during the Karthika Pournami day.

People like Matta, who own shops and eke out a living by selling soft drinks, condiments and other essentials to tourists, blame growing real estate activities near the beach for the ban.

“The government made us vacate the fishermen hutment on the shores and handed over the land to a company for construction of a star hotel. They have excavated huge mounds of sand and dumped in the sea. This resulted in obstruction of natural tidal movement and caused whirlpools,”claimed a Sannala Rama Rao, a boat owner.

In fact, the trouble began in 2004. The tidal waves caused by the devastating tsunami washed away the infrastructure created on the beach.

“I was with my three other family members on that day. We lost everything. The ex gratia of Rs 20,000 announced by the government was not given to us. The revenue department said that we had no visible injuries,” Matta lamented.

Call it superstition or coincidence. After the deadly tsunami, the scene has changed here, retired teacher T Gopala Krishna Murty pointed out. At least 12 people have died in the last few months, he added, supporting the government action of closure of the beach. The district administration, however, blames the mysterious deaths on the beach to booze and cameraman, who depend on the visitors for their livelihood. At least 12 persons have died in various incidents in the last six months.

“The beach is frequently visited by youth and revelers at odd hours. Most of them enter the deep waters, without knowing of the depth of the sea and lose their lives,” a local fisherman Ranga Rao said.

“These cameramen promise them a photo in water and take them to the sea. Many of them enter the waters in an inebriated condition, resulting in fatalities,” Matta Nageswar Rao pointed out. Many locals, who depend on the beach for their livelihood, have been trying to impress upon the authorities concerned to reopen the beach after making suitable arrangements to warn the tourists. Sources said despite several pleas, the officials have not bothered to set up safety nets in danger-prone areas along the beach.

Local MLA Perni Venkatramaiah alias Nani promised that safety measures at the beach would be upgraded. He has assured the locals that the beach would be opened for tourists, who used to prefer this beach compared to the Visakhapatnam beach, which is the deadliest on the entire east coast. The Tallapalem Beach Photographers’ Labour Association and vendors of different eatables, who had approached the District Collector, said that their plea to lift the ban a few months ago had not been considered. Those eking out a living selling corn and ice-cream and photographers providing instant printouts have lost their livelihood ever since the imposition of the ban, which is aimed at ensuring safety of the people.

Their representative B Nageswar Reddy alleged that the local politicians who are interested in running the beach business through their cronies have created a false scare. It’s a Rs five lakh business on the beach on any given Sunday and every one wants a share in it, said a Telugu Desam leader upset with the ban on beach.
The beach, thus stands closed, while all those depending on it for decades and bearing the brunt of many cyclones and a major tsunami are hurt deeply by the indifferent attitude of the authorities. “If anybody is responsible for the ban it is the government as it has allowed a real estate firm dig sand only a few yards from the sea, and dumping into the sea. Probably, the law of the land doesn’t apply to them” B Prasad, a local lawyer said.

This spectacular beach used to attract huge crowds. Apart from its natural splendour, the coast also has historical significance. Its natural bay, with moderately shallow and safewaters, boasted of being one of the safest beaches for water sports. Unlike other beaches, Manginapudi Beach has black-sparkling soil instead of sands, as it was close to the delta where river Krishna meets the sea carrying eroded soil.

A little away from the seashore, a park had been developed with fountains and well-lit surroundings. Manginapudi Beach was a wonderful place to relax, far from the turmoil of city life. At the time of Kartika Poornima, thousands of devotees take a holy dip in the sea every year.The beach also used to house a full-fledged dance school, offering courses in Kuchipudi dance.

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