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Boat accident: Assam engineers' body seeks total revamp of water transport service

By Our Representative 

Commenting on the recent demise of a college teacher (Parimita Das, a resident of Kahilipara in the city), who drowned following the boat accident on mighty river Brahmaputra near Nimatighat in Jorhat recently, the State’s top engineers’ organisation, All Assam Engineer’s Association (AAEA), has sought a complete revamping of the State’s water transport services.
The Assam government suspended three officials of the inland water transport (IWT) department following the incident of boat capsizing and instituted a high-level probe into it. The mishap occurred when a government ferry collided with a privately operated machine-boat in the afternoon hours.
Personnel from the National Disaster National Disaster Response Force National Disaster Response Force National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and its State counterpart SDRF rescued the lives of over 100 passengers even though some continued to be missing.
The engineers’ forum said in a media statement, the Nimatighat boat capsizing 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 department could have increased the number of ramps at the site according the demand of daily passengers on Nimatighat-Majui water rout, the statement said, 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 association pointed out that unlike a motor vehicle, those vessels have no braking devices, as the propellers used in those boats 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).
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 AAEA.
“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, working president Er Nava J Thakuria and secretary Er Inamul Hye.
AAEA appealed 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. It added, passengers should be offered tickets before the journey and the ongoing system of providing tickets in the middle of it must be stopped.

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