Assam bans single-engine pvt boats after Brahmaputra accident, search on for missing

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has ordered registering of a criminal case in connection with the accident and a high-level inquiry has also been planned.
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma inspecting the boat accident site on Thursday. (DIPR.)
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma inspecting the boat accident site on Thursday. (DIPR.)
Published on Sep 09, 2021 07:50 PM IST
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The Assam government on Thursday banned all single-engine boats from plying on Brahmaputra—a day after a collision between a small private boat and bigger government-operated one killed one passenger.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma ordered the move following a spot inspection of Wednesday’s accident site between Nematighat in Jorhat district and Kamalabari in Majuli district.

“All single engine private boats are banned from plying immediately. Those who want to switch to marine engine will be provided with 10 lakh each or 75% subsidy by Majuli district administration,” he said.

“From now four ferries of inland water transport department will operate between both banks of the river. Ro-pax (roll on-roll off passenger ferries) ferries would also serve passengers and we are bringing two more passenger vehicles from Guwahati,” Sarma added.

The accident took place around 4 pm on Wednesday when the smaller boat on way from Nematighat to Kamalabari hit the bigger one operated by inland water transport department coming from the other side.

The private boat, which was carrying 92 passengers, capsized within minutes killing a 28-year old college lecturer. While 89 passengers were rescued and accounted for two are still missing. There was no major damage to the bigger boat and none of its passengers were injured.

Sarma directed the Jorhat administration to file a criminal case on the accident. He said a high level inquiry would also be ordered. On Wednesday, three officials of inland water transport department were suspended following the accident.

The CM ordered rescheduling of boat timings and directed regular monitoring by magistrates. A new set of guidelines on operating passenger boats would be issued soon.

“Construction of the proposed bridge connecting Nematighat and Majuli will begin from November this year and would be completed within four years,” Sarma informed.

Search operations continued on Thursday to trace the two missing passengers of the capsized boat.

“We resumed our rescue operations from 6:00 am on Thursday. On Wednesday night, we had located the capsized boat, which had flowed several kilometres downstream. Our team cut a portion of the overturned boat to look for missing persons, but no one was found there,” informed Hari Ram Yadav, assistant commandant, 1st battalion, NDRF-Assam.

The opposition Congress on Thursday targeted the BJP-led-government in the state for failing to take adequate preventive and safety measures that resulted in the boat accident. The party accused the BJP of laying the foundation stone of the Jorhat-Majuli bridge twice (once in 2016 and again in 2021) without even starting work.

“We’ve had enough of ‘bhumi pujans’ and foundation stone laying ceremonies. Instead of focussing on such steps, the BJP governments at the Centre and Assam should concentrate on development and making lives of people safer,” Assam Congress president Bhupen Borah said in Guwahati while addressing a press conference.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021