GUWAHATI, Nov 3 - The �unwise� move of the State government in launching the Ro Ro (roll-on/roll-off) vessel services without doing adequate ground work has resulted in frequent and prolonged disruptions to their services almost immediately after those were launched with fanfare.
The lack of trained and experienced manpower as well as the required logistics for such sophisticated vessels worth several crores of rupees each has emerged as a big issue vis-�-vis their handling and maintenance.
Official sources wishing anonymity told The Assam Tribune that there was lack of coordination between the State government and the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) on the matter, resulting in hurried procurement of the vessels and evading of responsibility later.
�These are state-of-the-art vessels requiring well-trained personnel and sound logistics for their operation and maintenance. Lapses on this aspect can cause serious damage to the engine besides other technical snags,� sources said.
While Ro Ro services in Majuli have remained suspended for the past five months due to serious technical snags, the vessel operating from Dhubri too had been non-functional for even a longer period.
�For major repairing, the vessels have to undergo dry docking � a facility not available in the State and the out-of-order vessels need to be taken to Kolkata. The Dhubri vessel was repaired once but it again met with an accident in Bangladesh, requiring another dry docking,� sources said.
As things stand today, the operational guidelines for the Ro Ro vessels are not being followed. The State government had entered into an MoU with IWAI under which the vessels were to be taken over by the State Inland Water Transport authorities but that has not happened for reasons best known to the government.
The State Inland Water Transport authorities are reluctant to share much information on the issue, stating that the Ro Ro vessels are not under their jurisdiction as of now. The IWAI, on the other hand, alleged that the State Inland Water Transport authorities are not keen on taking over the vessels despite there being an MoU to that effect. This has effectively rendered the Ro Ro vessels an unwanted asset as none is apparently responsible for maintaining those.
�We are actually operating the vessels on a temporary and trial-and-error basis. The State government should facilitate running of these vessels under the State Inland Water Transport department,� an official said.
An Assam Inland Water Transport Development Society was also formed recently for the purpose of transforming the quality of ferry and passenger services.
Another irritant in the running of the Ro Ro vessels has been their �conversion� into passengers-carrying ferries.
�People do not accept that those are primarily meant for transporting vehicles and cargo and are not passenger ferries with proper sitting facilities. If the vessel can carry 80 vehicles, it is supposed to accommodate only those people sitting inside the vehicles. In Majuli, the vessel was made to carry huge number of passengers who constantly complained that there was no sitting arrangement and sheds for passengers, exposing them in the process to sunlight and rain. But Ro Ro vessels are not meant to be like that,� the official said.
There is also an urgent need to develop servicing dockyards for maintenance and repair of vessels in Assam. �This can drastically reduce the time and costs for repair of vessels,� he added.