GUWAHATI, Sept 6 - Successive Governments in the State never bothered to regulate the operations of the engine fitted country boats and even proposals sent by the senior officers have been gathering dust in the corridors of power. Only after the tragedy yesterday, the Government banned the operation of such boats in Brahmaputra river.
Majority of the persons plying the engine fitted country boats do not have any formal training of steering the vessels, while, the safety measures are always overlooked. It seems that the Government only woke up to the reality after the mishap occurred.
Retired IAS officer Swapnanil Baruah, who was in charge of the Director of Inland Water Transport (IWT) department for a brief period of a few months, said that way back in 2012, a detailed proposal was sent to the Government to regulate the operation of the engine fitted country boats, but no action was taken on it.
Baruah said that the State Government should have formulated bylaws on the basis of the Inland Vessels Act, 1917, which gave detailed guidelines on the plying of inland water vessels. But the respective State Governments would have to formulate bylaws on the basis of it, which was not done. He pointed out that only certified persons should be allowed to steer the vessels but in Assam, most of the people steering the vessels do not have any formal training and they have not obtained any license from anyone to ply vessels. All passenger carrying vessel should be registered with the concerned authorities, which is not the case in the State and no one is very sure how many such vessels are playing in the rivers of the State.
Baruah said that there should have been a mechanism to carry out regular inspection of the vessels including fitness aspect of those, provision of the safety equipment available, etc. The overloading factor should also be looked into. Most vessels do not have any safety equipment including life jackets, life buoys etc and these aspects were never looked into. It is not clear if a vessel indulges in overloading of passengers, who will impose fine and at what rate. All these aspects were given in the proposal, but unfortunately, the Government failed to act on it.