Guwahati: Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Wednesday inspected the measures taken at Nimati Ghat in Assam to ensure the safety of travellers commuting between Majuli and Jorhat via the Brahmaputra river following the recent collision of a boat and ferry which claimed three lives.
On his second visit to the site of the boat disaster, the chief minister told reporters that the Inland Water Transport (IWT) has made the services of two Ro-Pax vessels available for operation between Jorhat and Majuli after a thorough inspection.
Ro-Pax is the acronym of Roll-on/Roll-off passenger ferry and works as a freight vehicle transport with passenger accommodation.
Sarma announced that two more vessels MV Raj Lakshmi and MV Digaru will reach Majuli within the next two days while a catamaran will also be put into service within a few days.
The chief minister during his first visit to the accident site on September 9, a day after the incident, had ordered the police to file a criminal case in connection with the boat capsize.
”Single-engine boats, services of which were suspended following the accident, will be fitted with marine engines but it will take time.
We cannot allow the operation of these boats till they are converted as we cannot compromise with peoples’ lives. It will begin operations only after it is made sure that they comply with all safety measures set forth by the government”, Sarma said.
The IWT inspected the local boats and found that two of them have marine engines and therefore will be allowed to operate from Wednesday but eight others have single engines which will not be permitted, the chief minister said.
Sarma said that he had spoken to the Minister for Shipping, Ports, and Ayush Sarbananda Sonowal and requested him to send two more Ro-Pax vessels to Assam, out of which one will ply between Jorhat and Majuli.
The chief minister said that Sonowal has assured him that it will be provided as early as possible.
The Ro-Pax vessels and boats with marine engines will ply thrice daily and their timing has been rescheduled for the convenience of the passengers.
An App would also be launched by next week for booking tickets from home so that passengers do not have to stand in long queues, he said.
Further, two-night buses will ply between Jorhat and Majuli via Dibrugarh for passengers who are not willing to take the river route and if there is an increase in demand for bus travel, then the number of vehicles will be increased, Sarma said.
“All the steps initiated to ensure the safety of the passengers will take around 15 days to be completed and I urge the people of Majuli to cooperate so that further tragedies can be avoided in the future”, he said.
Sarma said that with the recovery of the body of Dr Bikramjit Barua, a government doctor in Majuli, three persons have died in the tragedy and there are no missing persons now.
Referring to the construction of the Jorhat-Majuli bridge, the chief minister said that back-office work is currently being done while construction will begin from November, he added.
A private boat with 92 people on board capsized and sank in the Brahmaputra on September 8 evening, following a head-on collision with a government-owned ferry steamer near Nimati Ghat in Jorhat district.
Twelve people, including the owner of the boat and six employees of the IWT Department, have been arrested in a case registered by the Jorhat Police.
The government has also ordered a high-level inquiry by Additional Chief Secretary Maninder Singh into the boat capsize incident.
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