A week after the boat tragedy in Ballia, in which 62 people had drowned in the Ganga, yet another boat mishap took place, in Uttar Pradesh's Bahraich district, with 20 persons feared dead on the Saryu river, on Tuesday.
The incident took place near Ikhara ghat on the Saryu, when the boat, with at least 36 people on board, capsized.
Additional Director General of Police Brij Lal said one body has been fished out. He said, about 20 people are untraceable while 15 have been rescued. "The worst is feared," the ADG admitted.
Given the fast water current on the Saryu, some officials expect the death toll to mount further. Governor BL Joshi and Chief Minister Mayawati have expressed their condolences and prayed for the dead.
Like in the Ballia incident, Mayawati has announced compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the kin of the deceased. She directed the officials to expedite relief and rescue operations. The district magistrate and superintendent of police, Bahraich, were supervising rescue work.
Brij Lal said, "The flood relief company of the PAC as well as expert divers of the police force have been rushed to expedite rescue work. A senior cop, involved in rescue work told reporters that like in Ballia incident where the death toll kept on mounting, in this case too the number of those feared drowned might increase.
Almost all the political parties, the BJP, the SP and the Congress have expressed their grief. SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav urged the government in wake of two back-to-back boat tragedies, the government should come out with steps to ensure that there is no overloading on boats. "In many parts of UP, boats are the cheapest and the quickest mode of transportation. Two boat tragedies in a week indicate that the state government's insensitivity towards the safety of the common man," he said. UP BJP president Surya Pratap Shahi while expressing his grief urged the government to increase compensation as did UPCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi.
"The Rs 1 lakh compensation amount announced by the government is too less. The government should increase it to Rs 5 lakh as many families have lost their bread earners," UPCC spokesman Dwijeendra Tripathi said. Senior RLD leader Munna Singh Chauhan too has condoled the death and urged the government to formulate guidelines for safe river travel.