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Lake curse on boat hubs

- Activity pause for safety review at dam, fisheries park

Casualties caused by callousness call for post-mortem.

A day after a boating disaster turned Ranchi Lake into a watery grave and bared gaping holes in recreational safety protocols in the state capital, tourism bosses on Monday paused joyrides at a few other hot spots to review their preparedness.

The picturesque Kanke reservoir, which has five motor boats for leisure rides, is among the first to go under the scanner.

A spot visit found all the four-seater boats in rickety condition, while the dock and the bridge leading to it are frail with rusty railings and weather-beaten wooden planks.

Also, missing in action are signs to indicate safe and unsafe zones or the depth of water for that matter. Warning boards, informing visitors about mandatory precautions to be taken before boating, were conspicuous by their absence.

One of the caretakers of the facility claimed they had life vests, but couldn’t specify how many. According to rule, five four-seater boats necessitate availability of 20 personal flotation devices, besides at least 10 air-filled tubes.

Jaimasi, who claimed to be in charge of boating operations at Kanke Dam, confirmed that the joyride had been put on hold. “The Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC) has ordered a review,” he said.

Boating at the fisheries department’s park in Doranda, which was scheduled to kick off from Tuesday with two four-seater paddleboats, has been postponed for later this week.

Ranchi district fisheries officer Ravi Shankar said they might launch rides by the weekend. “I have been ordered to postpone the activity for a re-evaluation of preparedness. Though no one has ever drowned in our pond, which is barely 6ft deep, we do not want to risk a chance,” he maintained.

On whether they were equipped with life vests and had divers on call, Shankar added: “Yes, we do have life jackets and they will be made mandatory for boating enthusiasts. I have ordered signboards for the same. Speaking of divers, we don’t need any because all our employees are fishermen who by default are good swimmers.”

Nakshatra Van, a forest development corporation-run facility opposite Raj Bhavan that generally offers boat rides on weekends, must be put under lens for lacking safety gear.

Nagendra Kumar, a staff, claimed they had life vests, but insisted that visitors refused to wear them. “Women crib the most about their clothes getting dirty,” he said. He, however, conceded that they had no expert divers.

Tourism secretary Sajal Chakraborty, who was on board the ill-fated ride on Sunday, said no blanket ban on boating had been ordered, but organisers had voluntarily halted services for safety recheck. “The tragedy is an eye-opener for everyone and in a couple of days, the department is set to review all sites,” he added.

JTDC managing director Sunil Kumar, however, confirmed the pause at Kanke. “Services will resume after review,” he said.