A two-member committee on Tuesday began probe into Saturday’s tragedy in which 24 persons were killed when a boat capsized in the river Ganga. The committee is probing the circumstances that led to the mishap.
The members of the committee are principal secretary, disaster management department, Pratyaya Amrit, and deputy inspector general (DIG) of police (central range, Patna) Shalin.
At least, 24 persons were drowned while returning from kite festival organised by Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC) at Sabalpur diara, located opposite Patna’s NIT Ghat, across the Ganga, on Makar Sankranti day (January 14).
The BSTDC had advertised in a big way for the festival and provided free boat service to ferry people to diara, which was found inadequate for thousands who turned up for the event. Sources said close to 25,000 people had visited Sabalpur diara to witness the kite fest.
The department had also invited international kite flyer Jamaluddin to display his skills at the festival.
However, on their return trip, in the absence of government arranged boat service, many of the revellers had to board decrepit country boat(s), which sank on the way, leaving at least 24 dead.
The committee visited the diara area and assessed the arrangements made on the fateful day. “We also met a cross section of people, talked to BSTDC officials and also met the Inland Waterways Authority of India officials to gather information. We expect to submit our report by month-end,” said Amrit.
The committee is also probing the co-ordination or lack of it among different agencies, namely, the BSTDC, district administration and SDRF (State Disaster Response Force).
The SDRF had deployed eight boats with 40 personnel, but according to eyewitnesses, almost all of them were focussed on conveying officials and their families.
While the magnitude of the mishap and the lapses on part of the authorities has rattled the government, the boatman of the ill-fated boat is yet to be located. “He can reveal what exactly happened that day,” said an official.
Sources said the boat which capsized was used for ferrying vegetables from diara area and at the most could have carried 15-20 persons. “But at the time of tragedy, it had on board around 40 people,” they added.