Boat tragedies are not uncommon in this country. Every year, a sizeable number of people meet with death in rivers, lakes and even in village ponds, partly due to human errors, negligence and flouting of all safety norms in ferrying passengers. While the authorities wash their hands off the tragedy by announcing compensation to the victims, their kith and kin take it in their stride as divine providence. But the boat tragedy that occurred in Krishna River in Vijayawada on Sunday can’t be considered as a human failure or dismissed as cruel fate. It is human greed that cost at least 20 lives.

As details emerge, it is clear that an accident of this nature is waiting to happen. At every level, safety norms had been blatantly flouted and mandatory precautions were not taken before carrying the tourists to designated points. First, the boat had no permission and was overloaded; second, its driver had taken a route he was not familiar with; third, life jackets were not provided to passengers; fourth, no safety instructions given to travellers in case of an emergency; fifth, no questions asked about the operation capability of the vessel and its crew. While these are the basic issues that should be addressed by the probe team, it should also look into the alleged link between the company River Boating that operated the ill-fated boat and past and present officials of Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC).

More important than investigating the disaster and bringing the culprits to book is improvements in the functioning of AP Tourism. Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is keen on attracting more tourists and has ambitious plans to promote AP nationally and globally. Among these are luxury boat services. Their river routes have already been identified. Islands in Krishna and Papikondalu in Godavari are being touted as the best tourist attractions for river tourism in Andhra Pradesh.

The Chief Minister also wants to rope in private sector to develop AP tourism in a big way. If he wants it grow on sound lines and in a healthy way, Chandrababu needs to ensure that both APTDC and private players work in tandem under well-formulated policy guidelines. He should also make sure that there is no place for nepotism. The sooner he does the better because another boat mishap can deal a blow to the CM’s grand tourism plans which should include, by default, infrastructure projects such as proper jetties and passenger facilities which are in a pathetic condition.

The Krishna boat tragedy should also serve as an eye-opener to other state governments which run tourist boats or let private parties operate them without adopting standard procedures and providing basic facilities to passengers. Boat journeys are pleasurable and they should be made as enjoyable as possible and should not end up in watery graves.