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Paucity of Funds Cripple Inland Water Transport Department

Paucity of Funds Cripple Inland Water Transport Department

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  7 Sep 2018 7:07 AM GMT

* 15 vessels out of order

* No new addition to the fleet in last few years

STAFF REPORTER

GUWAHATI, Sept 6: The woeful state of the Inland Water Transport (IWT) Department in the State has been once again exposed and this time after Wednesday’s tragic mishap in the Brahmaputra near Guwahati where two young girls died. As many 15 of its vessels are out of service. Besides, there has not been any addition to its fleet in the last few years.

Not only is the department crippled with respect to its contingent of ferries but is also weighing heavily with respect to allegations of corruption against some of its personnel. There are lots of queries as to the role of IWT in the management as well as allowing mechanized boats (bhut-bhutis) to ply in the riverways. There are demands for transparency in its operation.

What is more, successive state governments have woefully failed to provide the required thrust to tap the huge possibility of inland water transport in Assam? The paucity of government funds and an alleged nexus between certain employees of IWT Department and local lessees of river banks have been identified as two prime lacunae.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal introduced four new ferry services in Majuli a few days back. However, it has been learned that two of the ferries are not regular. The reason is again the secret understanding between a few IWT personnel and local lessees. Once the IWT ferries do not ply, the lessees have a free hand in running their mechanized boats.

At present, IWT has 79 ferries. Of them, 15 are stranded with seven beyond repair. Of course, the remaining eight ferries are repairable. But the funds required for carrying out the repairs are not forthcoming from the government.

It has also been learned that the Central government is planning to introduce one Roll-on Roll-off (RORO) services from Guwahati in 2019. The State Government is also commencing three new ferry services in between Guwahati and North Guwahati in the next few months. The estimated cost per vessel is Rs 2 crore.

RORO ships are vessels designed to carry wheeled cargo, such as cars, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers, and railroad cars that are driven on and off the ship on their own wheels or using a platform vehicle, such as a self-propelled modular transporter.

It remains to be seen as to how the authorities concerned actually set things right with respect to IWT that has lots of grey areas.

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