GUWAHATI, Sept 6 - People of North Guwahati today said the authorities resorted to falsehood when they claimed that there were a total of 24 passengers who were issued tickets on board the ill-fated engine-driven country boat, or bhutbhuti, which met with a tragic accident near Ashwaklanta yesterday that left two college-going girls dead.
North Guwahatians, who have been crossing the Brahmaputra by such boats for decades, are now shocked to learn that such boats issue tickets to passengers, contrary to their life-long experience.
In fact, for decades, country boats have been operating illegally and their operators do not follow the practice of issuing tickets to passengers. The operators never listen to the passengers� requests for tickets and they often turn down such requests with ridicules or harsh words.
Many people of North Guwahati, who travel by these vessels to Guwahati city regularly, allege that passengers who oppose the practice of carrying people, goods and vehicles beyond the capacity of these vessels are silenced by the operators with rude behaviour.
Inland Water Transport (IWT) sources told The Assam Tribune yesterday that �the 16-metre-long vessel had a capacity to carry a three-tonne load or 15 passengers. But the operator issued tickets to 24 passengers. Three IWT staff were also on board, besides seven motorbikes, two bicycles and an unspecified number of passengers travelling without tickets.�
Jatindra Choudhury, former Head of the Department of English, North Guwahati College, said in a Facebook post, �The dark chapter of issuing tickets to country boat passengers is an indication of a huge scam. Will the people of North Guwahati do something?�
Many North Guwahatians extended their support to Choudhury. Some of them described the assertion of the authorities on the tickets issued to passengers of that boat � SB Brahmaputra bearing registration number 1149 � as a blatant lie.
In fact, the practice is that the operators resort to head count of passengers and their belongings like motorbikes etc., to charge them the travel fare, they said.
Some wrote, �Petty interest and political ambitions of some people have led to the watery grave of humanism.�
Some people described the assertion of the authorities as a move to divert public attention from the ongoing corruption in leasing out and running the ferry mahals.
It has been learnt from sources in the United India Insurance Company that the ill-fated boat was insured with it and as per provision of the insurance policy, lives of 15 passengers travelling by it at a time are to be covered by this policy. The compensation amount is Rs 50,000 per head. The owner of the boat is to get compensation worth Rs 1 lakh, the sources said.