GUWAHATI, Sept 11 - No mechanised country boats (bhutbhutis) will be allowed to ply in the entire river system of Assam until further orders, Transport Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said today, even as he asked all single-engine ferry owners to convert their vessels into double-engine ones with reversible gears.
After a review meeting at the Directorate of Inland Water Transport office in the aftermath of the boat mishap at North Guwahati, Patowary said that as per safety norms, there must be one life jacket for each passenger in the vessel and it will be mandatory for each passenger to put on the life jacket while boarding the vessel.
He further instructed that the Deputy Commissioners shall conduct safety audit of the ferry vessels within their respective districts.
The Minister also took stock of the World Bank-funded project preparation and the reform measures initiated during the last one-and-a-half years. The WB-funded project will address the sector reforms holistically, for which �Inros Lackner� � Germany-based consultants � has submitted the inception report and the vessel design and terminal design are being readied.
The Transport Department has been working on a regulatory bill for the last six months and the �Assam Inland Water Transport Reorganization Act� is ready to be placed before the Legislative Assembly during the forthcoming session.
The Act will facilitate the setting up of a separate regulatory authority and separate port and shipping management companies, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Khosla Committee Report submitted in 2013.
The Minister also directed that capacity building of IWT staff and other stakeholders must be enhanced on a war-footing. The Minister admitted that adequate attention on fleet modernization was not given in the past, due to which vessels operating both under the IWT and private operators turned old.
However, during the last two years, work has been undertaken for 15 steel vessels and three wooden vessels. As per the present status, four steel vessels in Barak, and one steel and three wooden vessels in Majuli have already been deployed. The remaining 10 vessels will be completed within this financial year.