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Official apathy alarming

Official apathy alarming
Highlights

That money alone matters and life has no value has been proved once again as 22 tribals lost their lives when the motorised boat (launch) they were travelling in capsized in river Godavari near Manturu in Devipatnam on Tuesday.  Hardly five days ago, a boat with tourists caught fire while it was on its way to Papikondalu on a sightseeing visit from Polavaram. 

That money alone matters and life has no value has been proved once again as 22 tribals lost their lives when the motorised boat (launch) they were travelling in capsized in river Godavari near Manturu in Devipatnam on Tuesday. Hardly five days ago, a boat with tourists caught fire while it was on its way to Papikondalu on a sightseeing visit from Polavaram.

Though all the 80 and odd passengers could escape from the inferno as the driver steered it to a landmass just in time, it stood in testimony to the failure of supervision on launches and boats on Godavari river. In river Krishna in November last year, 23 tourists met with a watery grave when the driver who was not authorised to operate the boat tried to turn it to one side in the middle of the river without taking into consideration the weight of the passengers on one side of the boat.

In all the three tragedies, what emerged as the shimmering truth was total lack of government control or coordination among its agencies on the operations of boats and launches. The power of issue of licences was transferred from the Water Resources Department to the Department of Ports on May 1. The Ports Department claims says since the power was transferred only recently, they are yet get to their act together.

Assuming that a licence has been renewed by the Ports Department, there is no guarantee that the tragedy would have been averted since there would be no one from the government to ensure that the boats are not overloaded, or the driver of the boat is properly trained and is well conversant with the waterway in which he is operating the boat. There is no way of checking if there is clearance for the waterway in which boats operate. There is also no weather clearance system before a boat sets sail.

Immediately after the Krishna boat tragedy in November last year, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced in the Assembly that an expert committee would be set up to study all the issues in-depth and recommend measures for safe sailing of boats. If there had been a follow-up on what the Chief Minister had said, a tourist boat would not have gone up in flames on May 11 and another launch would not have capsized on Tuesday.

Though cement bags had been loaded into the boat on Tuesday and passengers alerted the driver that weather was hostile, the driver reportedly paid no heed to their concerns and continued to operate the boat. The doors of the cabins in which cement bags were kept were closed and bolted from outside to prevent them from getting wet due to rain or gales.

Another chilling fact was that the boat that sank on Tuesday had been in operation for quite long and it had even capsized once in 1991, drowning about 50 passengers then. If only the authorities paid attention to the announcements made by the CM, innocent lives would have been saved. But it appears it is a tall order in the present circumstances.

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