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River ferries stalled in silt

Soma Nandi of Ramkrishnapur had a harrowing experience last Thursday afternoon when she reached the Shibpur ferry ghat. A low tide in the river had forced the suspension of launch services and Soma had to pick up her daughter from her Park Street school and get back home.

Soma took a rickshaw to Mandirtala, from where she hired a taxi to her daughter’s school, via Vidyasagar Setu. On reaching there after more than an hour, she found her six-year-old daughter weeping in one corner of the empty campus, as school had already given over.

The following day was no different at the ghat. The operators told Soma that launches would start plying only after the low tide ended.

Soma is one among the thousands of commuters, including office-goers and students, who are being inconvenienced by irregular ferry services between Shibpur and Babughat for the past few months. Heavy deposition of silt on the riverbed, covering a huge stretch near the Shibpur ghat, has reduced navigability of the river to such an extent that launch services have to be suspended almost all the time during peak hours. Launches are operated only during a high tide in the river.

For several residents of Shibpur, on the Howrah side, who take this route everyday to reach the hub of the city, uncertain launch services are causing immense hardships.

“I have been availing of launch services on this route for more than 25 years but never have I come across this kind of a problem. It is surprising that the authorities are doing little to remove the silt,” complained Anju Mukherjee, an employee of a Central government office near Babughat.

Many commuters said they had requested the authorities of the Hooghly Nadi Jalapath Paribahan Samabay, which controls the launch services on various routes, to take necessary steps and resolve the problem. But nothing has been done so far, they added.

Lagan Deo Singh, chairman of the Samabay, said: “We are aware of the hardships of the people. We are trying to contact Calcutta Port Trust officials and other government agencies to start dredging the riverbed.”

According to Singh, the Samabay was considering a plan to divert the launch route, avoiding the silted portion of the riverbed, and continue the services even during low tides.

But the idea was abandoned when the authorities found huge iron pillars lying beneath the stretch through which the diverted route had been planned, Singh added.

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