GUWAHATI, June 1 - With the monsoon approaching fast, the State government has started preparing itself to avoid any chance of boat mishap-related tragedies, which have, during the past few years, taken the toll of a good number of people while crossing the rain-fed turbulent rivers by boat. For the purpose, the State�s Inland Water Transport (IWT) Directorate has been made to make use of life jackets, life buoys and life rafts mandatory on all the ferry vessels and boats.
However, there is lack of awareness within a section of the passengers, who regularly use the ferry vessels or boats, on the issue of wearing life jackets while on board a vessel or a boat.
The IWT Directorate has said in an office order dated May 27, 2019 that the number of life jackets on a boat or ferry must correspond to the number of passengers and crew. It has stated that in all journeys, the passengers must be made to wear life jackets.
�At the start of every trip, the master operator or other responsible crew members should give safety briefing to the passengers. This should be strictly followed in all IWT ferries,� said the IWT order.
The State IWT, in its three divisions � Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Silchar � has altogether 108 wooden and steel vessels. Of them, 84 are in running condition. Of the vessels in running condition, 17 are operating in its Guwahati Division, 22 in its Dibrugarh Division and 45 in Silchar Division. The Directorate has 106 notified ferry stations (ghats).
In the recent past, two tragic boat mishaps � one at Medartari in Dhubri district on April 30, 2012 and the other at North Guwahati Madhyamkhanda in Kamrup district on September 5, 2018, involving private sector semi-mechanised boats, locally known as bhutbhutis � took several human lives. Following the Medartari tragedy, the State government had formed an one-man inquiry committee under the then Additional Chief Secretary Jitesh Khosla, which recommended, among others, compulsory use of life jackets, lifebuoys, etc., by the passengers and crews on board the boats and ferry vessels, throughout the State.
IWT Directorate sources said the Directorate has collected 4,350 life jackets and 2,175 lifebuoys from the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) and efforts are being made to generate awareness among the boat and ferry passengers on the need to use them. People boarding the IWT vessels are now offered life jackets and are also helped in wearing them.
Between Guwahati and North Guwahati, the IWT has five ghats, namely � Guwahati-North Guwahati, Guwahati-Rajaduwar, Guwahati-Madhyamkhanda, Guwahati-Kuruwa and Guwahati-Umananda. On an average, around 8,000 people cross the Brahmaputra between Guwahati and North Guwahati, on any working day.