GUWAHATI, Oct 3 - The Assembly today witnessed noisy scenes over the Assam Inland Water Transport Regulatory Authority Bill 2018 with the Opposition Congress and AIUDF wanting exemption of non-commercial country boats from the purview of the proposed legislation.
The prolonged deliberations which saw Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami intervene several times ended with the passing of the Bill by voice vote.
The Speaker also endorsed the proposal of Transport Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary that the proposed Inland Water Transport Regulatory Authority would examine the grievances of the Opposition members over certain provisions of the Bill once the Government placed those before the authority.
Reiterating that there can be no compromise on the safety aspects for passengers on mechanically-propelled vessels including country boats fitted with engines that are widely used for transportation across the State, Patowary said that over the decades all norms and rules were being flouted by the operators jeopardizing the safety of the commuters.
�We want to bring all the mechanically-propelled vessels under a standardized set of operating norms, with utmost thrust on adherence to passenger safety norms. The new Act will be applicable to all mechanically-propelled boats irrespective of whether they run for commercial or non-commercial purposes,� he said.
Referring to the recent boat tragedy in the city in which three persons died, Patowary said that the accident was primarily attributable to the fact that the boat had only one engine in addition to its highly-questionable water worthiness.
He added that following the Mederatary boat tragedy in which a number of people were killed in 2012, the Khosla Committee had submitted its recommendations but the then Government chose to sit over those. �However, I do not want to blame any single political party as all the governments by different parties over the decades had done little to put some semblance of order in the chaos and lawlessness that marks the functioning of our inland water transport,� he said.
Opposition members Sherman Ali Ahmed, Hafiz Bashir Ahmed, Wazed Ali Choudhury, Dr Motiur Rahman Mandal and Sukur Ali took strong exception to the coverage of non-commercial boats under the Act, reasoning that a large number of people living in riverine areas were completely dependent on their personal country boats for various purposes and that enforcing the many norms on those vessels would be impractical and result in harassment.
�Many poor people in these areas use their boats for different personal purposes on a daily basis such as commuting, carrying their children to schools, carrying their produce to home and markets, etc. It will be preposterous to bring these vessels under the ambit of the rigorous norms of the proposed Act,� Ahmed said.
Bhuban Pegu and Prasanta Phukan said that making two engines mandatory for a boat was impractical and ensuring one good quality engine was enough.
Patowary in his reply said that as the Bill was aimed at creating a regulatory authority only for streamlining the hazardous inland water transport, the grievances of the Opposition could be addressed by placing those before the authority.
�Let me assure the House that I will place the concerns raised by the members before the regulatory authority and it will give due consideration to those. And we can again take up the matter in the Assembly if not satisfied,� he said.