GUWAHATI: If any serious disaster occurs in the ferry services in the State now, there is every reason to term it "more by design than by accident". Whenever any major accident occurs, all rules and safety norms are adopted in no time, but as time passes by the authorities concerned are back to square one. A glaring example of this is the State Inland Water Transport (IWT) department.
In September 2018, a boat capsized in the Brahmaputra in Guwahati. Only 12 of the forty passengers on the boat came out alive. Soon after the incident, the IWT department made everything – adequate number of life jackets and life buoys – ready for the safety of passengers in each and every ferry service. However, now everything is back to square one.
None other than Kamrup (M) Deputy Commissioner Diswajit Pegu is eye witness to the blatant violation of passengers' safety norms and COVID-19 protocols in the ferries plying between Guwahati and North Guwahati. As many as eight ferries carry passengers between the two banks of the Brahmaputra in Guwahati daily.
The Deputy Commissioner could notice the overcrowded ferry as his office room is located on the river bank.
In a letter to the Director of Inland Water Transport on December 28, 2020, the Deputy Commissioner said that the IWT was following the precautionary measures in respect of safety and security of the passengers which may lead to an accident at any moment.
The letter from the DC laid special thrust on violation of passengers' safety norms and COVID-19 protocols.
Despite being aware of the importance of safety measures like life jackets and life buoys, the IWT has not been adhering to safety norms, besides ignoring COVID-19 protocols – both by passengers and ferry crew members.
The Kamrup (M) DC has seen only what is happening in the ferry services in Guwahati. Such violations have been rampant in almost each and every ferry service in the State. Mechanized boats have also been violating rules while ferrying passengers.
The IWT has only one answer in its defense, and that is paucity of ferry services in the State. The ferry service operators often blame it on the huge rush of passengers who often forcibly board the ferries even when they are already overcrowded.