GuwahatiAssam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Bhupen Bora on Thursday alleged that there were no provisions for safety kits such as life jackets, swimming tubes, etc., in both the boats that collided and capsized and the ferry which hit it in the flooded Brahmaputra river near Nimatighat a day before.

Speaking at a press conference, Bora said there were also media reports that help from both the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) took one hour to reach the site.

The Congress demanded that the state government immediately grant an ex-gratia of Rs 25 lakh to families of those deceased.

“During flood season, is it not mandatory for river transport authorities to monitor water transport activities in order to prevent any such mishap? Does Nimatighat and Majuli even have a functioning river police station?”, he asked.

River police team along with SDRF and NDRF personnel should be strategically stationed in river routes for prevention of mishaps, Bora added.

He said though the Congress would not like to politicize the unfortunate incident, “it is our moral duty as an opposition party to remind the government of its negligence and carelessness towards the lives of people”.

“How can two vessels collide in broad daylight, in good weather conditions….does the Inland Water Transport Department have properly marked navigation routes or not….do they have licensed boat or ferry drivers?”, Bora asked.

He also sought to know whether the load on the ferries were being monitored as allegations were also rife that ferries and boats are always overloaded. Bora also alleged that the BJP government had made numerous electoral promises to the people of Majuli and Jorhat time and again but these remain just promises.

He pointed pout that in 2016, Union minister Nitin Gadkari had laid the foundation of a bridge from Majuli to Jorhat but it did not get any further from that for five long years.

Gadkari again did ‘Bhumi Pujan’ and laid the foundation stone of the same bridge between Majuli and Nimatighat before the last assembly polls. “It is extremely tragic that the BJP government remembers about the long standing demand for a bridge only during elections and conveniently forgets about it after the polls are over,” Bora added.

Talking about the Roll on Roll off (Ro Ro) service inaugurated by then chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal at Kamalabari Ghat in 2018 and a Ro Ro vessel, named MB Bhupen Hazarika, built at a cost of Rs 9.46 Cr by Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), Bora said, “It is unfortunate that till date the Ro Ro service is not operational for reasons best known to the state government. It has a capacity to carry over 100 passengers along with 8 trucks.”

He also pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had flagged off the RoRo Ferry Service with much fanfare once again just before 2021 assembly elections but “nobody knows what happened after that”.

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