GUWAHATI, Sept 16: The boat tragedy that took place in the Brahmaputra close to the North Guwahati bank recently is not the first of its kind taking place in the mighty river. Earlier too several such incidents had taken place – the one in Dhubri being a major one. However, the Government authorities, including the Inland Water Transport (IWT) and the district authorities, never initiated any positive move to counter such situations squarely.
During the much hyped Advantage Assam held in February last, taxi giant Ola signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Assam to introduce an app-based river taxi service in Guwahati. Significantly, Assam Transport Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary was a witness to the event.
It was expected that the machine-operated water taxies would provide safe mode of transport for both long and short distances over the Brahmaputra and other rivers in the State, while being speedy.
Unfortunately till date the MoU has remained as nothing more than a mere scrap of paper, forcing the general public to believe that it was another piece of falsehood indulged in by the government.
It may be recalled that following the Advantage Assam summit, Ola made a survey on the Brahmaputra and identified three routes - Lachit Ghat to North Guwahati, Lachit Ghat to Umananda and Lachit Ghat to Palashbari – for the operation of Ola water taxis.
Introduction of two enforcement vessels by the IWT was also on the cards. During the Namami Brahmaputra Festival in March-April 2017, the Assam Transport Minister had also promised 15 new vessels on the Guwahati-North Guwahati route. In fact the promises and roadmaps were all rosy.
However, it is deeds and not words or paper works that is important. So far as the deeds are concerned, the state has not witnessed any changes on the playing of vessels on the Brahmaputra till the tragedy of boat capsize took place.
In the wake of the boat tragedy, the Minister made another promised of introducing at least 3 vessels on the river within this month.
While the promises seem to be sky-rocketing, the ground reality till this date continues to be gloomy. The only change noticed following the boat disaster is that mechanized country boats (bhutbhuti) have been banned from plying on the Brahmaputra fro the time being.