GUWAHATI, Sept 26: The State Government is bringing in an Act in the current autumn session of the Assam Assembly to regulate the Inland Water Transport (IWT) Department. This was announced by Transport Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary in the House on Wednesday.
In the meantime, a number of projects have been highlighted to modernize and regulate the functioning of the Inland Water Transport (IWT) department which has been suffering from a plethora of problems during the last few decades. Though the decision to this effect was taken earlier, the recent boat tragedy in the Brahmaputra has forced the present government to gear up the entire process.
Minister Patowary in reply to a question posed by AGP member Gunindra Nath Das on Wednesday said: “The government has taken up a number of schemes to regulate and modernize the Inland Water Transport department. While the State government would be providing new ferris to the department, the Central government has already announced that it would be giving five ROROs (Roll-on/roll-off) free of cost to the State Government.” Each RORO vessel has a capacity of 200 passengers besides eight trucks. The World Bank has also sanctioned a fund of Rs 1,000 crore to modernize the department.
The Assam Inland Water Transport set up in the year 1958 is one of the oldest departments of the State. The Department of Transport, Government of Assam is the Administrative department of IWT.
Steps are also on to bring back to Assam the 16 barges presently in Kolkata. These barges would go a long way in streamlining the access to the Chittagong Port in Bangladesh, Patowary said.
Dwelling on the IWT personnel, Minister Patowary said that as of now there is not a single marine engineer in the department. Its work is being carried out by civil engineers.
He also pointed out that it would be mandatory for all vessels including the mechanized boats known locally as bhut-bhutis to have double engines and life jackets according to their carrying capacities. Moreover, personnel of all vessels would be giving safety briefing to the passengers prior to the commencement of each trip.
Blaming the previous state government for the present mess, Patowary said that the recommendations of the Khosla Committee were put under the wraps.