Prompt action by the state tourism officials on Monday covered up for administrative mismanagement at Sabbalpur Diara, where the two-day Patna Kite Festival, 2013, took to the skies.
Police in good numbers were deployed for chief minister Nitish Kumar at the sandbar fest site but hardly any vigil was maintained on movement of boats between Gandhi Ghat and the sandbar.
A major mishap involving an overcrowded mechanised country boat was averted at Gandhi Ghat minutes before Nitish’s arrival. The vessel was so overloaded that it was submerged on one side. Suddenly, its engine fell silent. The boatmen jumped off and fled. Panic-stricken women and children on the boat began crying and screaming for help. Some Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC) officers promptly reacted and got the boat tied to MV Ganga Vihar, the floating restaurant, and towed it to the BSTDC jetty.
After the insistence of a few mediapersons, a few cops arrived at the spot but they seemed mute spectators. When The Telegraph asked one of the cops whether they were waiting for a repeat of the Chhath mishap, he said: “You can call the superintendent of police or the district administration if you want to.”
|Chief minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi try their hands at kite-string bobbins
on Monday. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh
The sight of other overloaded boats reaching the sandbar on the other bank was similar. Passengers were forced to use a narrow, temporary platform made by tying up short bamboo poles for boarding and disembarking. Passengers flocked to the platform simultaneously, forcing several to get into waist-deep water. People were climbing from one boat to another to alight. Many people were carrying children on their shoulders.
“Though the water is waist-deep, one could be trapped if he/she steps into marshy soil at several places on the sandbar,” said a BSTDC official, preferring anonymity.
The chief minister inaugurated the festival in the presence of his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi, tourism minister Sunil Kumar, education minister P.K. Shahi, rural development minister Nitish Mishra and food and consumer protection minister Shyam Rajak among others.
The sluggish wind played spoilsport with the kite festival, as professional kite fliers of national and international repute could not fly their gigantic kites. Mehul Pathak, a professional kite flier from Ahmedabad, who took part in the festival the second consecutive year, said: “I have brought 20 3D inflatable kites, measuring between 8m and 50m, but I cannot fly most of them owing to slow wind speed. However, the footfall at the festival is very good.”
“I have been flying kites since childhood. I am so obsessed that I fell off the roof while flying kite in Class IX but I still haven’t quit. I sent a text message on the mobile number given for this festival to register myself but I brought my own kite,” said R.P. Gupta, a state government employee and a resident of Jai Prakash Nagar.