Preliminary investigation has indicated that overloading and a damaged vessel led to the boat capsize that claimed 10 lives in Bhagalpur’s Rani diara on Saturday.
The body of one Lukhia Devi (40) was recovered on Sunday. Ghanashyam Mandal, the boat owner, was not present at the time of the mishap. In the absence of any trained boatman, the villagers, mostly women, were rowing the boat on way to Gobria diara and subsequently lost control.
Bhagalpur superintendent of police K.S. Anupam was not available but a police officer at Pirpainty, on condition of anonymity, said: “The boat owner cannot be punished under law. Since we have no option, we would try to frame charges against him. Proper steps should be taken to help the residents of the diara lead a respectable life.”
“Lack of facilities and apathy on the part of the government has compelled the residents to take maximum risk in day-today commute,” said Subodh Singh, the mukhiya of Rani diara panchayat. Bhagalpur divisional commissioner Minhaj Alam, at present holding the charge of Munger division, instructed all district magistrates concerned to ensure safety in plying of countryboats and to check their registration and to arrange special camps in the rural areas.
District transport officers have been asked to complete the registration of the boats within two months. Alam also instructed the district magistrates to stop illegal boats with no licence from plying.
Bhagalpur district magistrate Prem Singh Meena said instructions have been sent to block development officers, commanding officers and police stations to stop illegal boats without proper licence and registration from plying.
“In absence of proper transportation facility and bridges in the diaras, people use boats,” said Dilip Mishra, an activist. Five people lost their lives at Ishmilepur in 2007, six at Lailakh on 2007, eight at Tilakpur diara in 2008, seven at Kurpath near Ghogha in 2009, six at Tapua diara in 2011, four at Borohia in 2012 and three at Milki Ghat on Kosi at Naugachia in January 2013, Mishra said.