Guwahati: Union ports, shipping and waterways minister Sarbananda Sonowal visited the Nimatighat boat capsizing site on mighty river Brahmaputra near Jorhat on Friday and assured that the authority would work together to build the necessary infrastructure to prevent such accidents in the future.
The immediate past Assam chief minister and the BJP legislator from Majuli assembly also added that the concerned officials have been directed to ensure proper safety measures strictly for the passengers. He also visited Majuli riverine island and while interacting with the locals expressed deepest condolences to victims of the ferry accident. “We are together with the people of Majuli in this time of grief,” commented Sonowal, who later visited the family members of some missing individuals in the mishap that occurred on Wednesday when a government ferry collided with a privately operated machine-boat.
Sonowal empathized with them in the time crisis and expressed hope that their love-ones would return safe. Assam government has already suspended three officials of the inland water transport (IWT) department following the incident and instituted a high-level probe into it. The NDRF and SDRF personnel rescued the lives of over 100 passengers even though some continued to be missing after the accident.
Meanwhile, expressing profound grief over the demise of Parimita Das, a resident of Kahilipara locality in the city, who drowned on her way to Majuli in the boat mishap, All Assam Engineer’s Association (AAEA) demanded a complete revamping of the State’s water transport services for the safety of passengers.
The forum of graduate engineers argued that the Nimatighat incident was an example of complete failure in the traffic management where the authorised IWT officials avoided their call (to decide) on time. There are wild allegations about the practices of some officials to allow private boats to operate on prime time instead of the department run ferries for personal gains, the forum stated.
“The IWT department could have increased the number of ramps at the site according the demand of daily passengers on Nimatighat-Majui water rout,” the forum commented adding that the department now should consider erecting separate ramps for departure and arrival of vessels in all riverine locations across the State.
Narrating the operational mode of machine boats, the forum pointed out that unlike a motor vehicle, those vessels have no braking devices, as the propellers used in those botas move in one direction only to produce the forward thrust. So, it is always a difficult task for the rider to suddenly stop a machine boat (also turn into a particular direction), while sailing on water and thus the driver’s skill and experience become very important.
On the other hand, a mechanised ferryboat has the arrangement to move its propeller in the opposite direction (to produce the effect of a brake). Lately State chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has also spoken about using marine engines (with the provision to move the propeller in opposite direction) for the boats with announcement of government subsidies for upgrading the plying machine-boats on various routes, which is a welcomed move, stated the forum.
“We believe the revamped IWT department should be entrusted the responsibility to technically supervise the private boats and also their services as its undertakings. All the vessels plying on Brahmaputra should be mechanised efficiently considering the erratic water flow of the river,” said the statement endorsed by AAEA president Er Kailash Sarma and secretary Er Inamul Hye.
AAEA finally appeals to passengers to demand life jackets compulsorily from the operators and check the availability of sufficient number of life-saving buoys (designed to be thrown to a person in water to provide buoyancy and prevent drowning) while boarding on ferryboats for their own safety. Moreover, the forum added, passengers should be offered tickets before the journey and the ongoing system of providing tickets in the middle of it must be stopped.