GUWAHATI, May 7 - The State Government is working on a proposal, concerning the Inland Water Transport (IWT) sector, to provide incentives, in the form of subsidies, to the owners of the registered mechanised boats so as to enable them operate on both the Brahmaputra and the Barak rivers, complying with the safety norms. The proposal includes subsidies on marine engines and free supply of safety gears and insurance covers, among others.
Operation of the mechanised boats on the Brahmaputra and the Barak has remained suspended since the September 5, 2018 boat tragedy in North Guwahati, which took the toll of three lives, including two college-going girls.
Meanwhile, the process to revamp the IWT Directorate of the State is on. The State Government has decided to create four separate bodies out of the IWT Directorate. These are � the IWT Directorate, the IWT Regulatory Authority, the IWT Vessel Construction Company and the IWT Port Construction Company.
According to official sources, the proposal to provide incentives to the mechanised boat owners is mooted as a component under the US $ 150 million worth Phase-I of a World Bank-assisted scheme. This proposal titled � Jibandinga� � is under study and an agreement has been signed with the Indian Registrar of Shipping for the purpose of providing technical guidance to the Assam Inland Water Development Society, formed to implement the World Bank-assisted schemes.
Under the supervision of this Society, the above scheme proposed for improving the private sector mechanized boat services on the Brahmaputra and the Barak would be materialized, said the sources.
Under this proposed scheme, marine engines, reversible gear boxes, propulsion, out board motor and safety equipment, among others, would be supplied to the owners of the registered mechanized boats at subsidised rates.
There are 1,383 registered mechanized boats in the State and there are between 1,500 and 2,000 mechanised boats which are yet to be registered with the IWT Directorate of the State. Most of these unregistered mechanized boats used to operate from Guwahati and its downstream areas over the Brahmaputra, sources said.
Though private sector participation is crucial for the development of the IWT sector, in the State, private parties have not shown much interest so far to participate in this sector. This is because of the low tariff rates. The IWT tariff of the State was determined about 16 years back in 2003. This has discouraged private participation in the IWT sector of the State. However, some parties have been taking part in river tourism, sources said.
It needs mention here that the State Assembly on October 3, 2018 passed a Bill to constitute a regulatory authority under the name and style of �The Assam Inland Water Transport Regulatory Authority.� This was done with a view to promote the development of safe, efficient, reliable and environmentally-sound inland water transport and terminal services for the benefit of the ferry users, freight consigner and water tourism in the State.
The regulatory authority will ensure registration of the vessels and enforcement of the safety norms.
The revamp of the IWT Directorate is being done in keeping with the recommendations of the Jitesh Khosla Committee, which was formed in the wake of the April 30, 2012 Dhubri Medaratri boat mishap-related tragedy in which scores of people were killed. Reconstitution of the IWT Directorate is also a condition slapped by the World Bank while extending the US $ 150 million loan for the development of the State�s IWT sector.