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Boating firm in trouble

Ranchi, Dec. 18: Three days after the Bada Talab motorboat mishap claimed four lives, Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) today slapped a showcause on the firm it had entrusted to run the recreational activity, while Jharkhand High Court initiated a suo motu PIL, asking the state to file an affidavit on safety procedures.

The RMC slapped a notice on Chatterjee International, the private firm responsible for Sunday’s boating disaster in Ranchi Lake due to overloading and lack of safety gear.

In its letter to company owner Gautam Chatterjee, the RMC gave a 48-hour ultimatum to explain the reasons behind glaring security lapses. These include 17 persons crammed on a boat meant for 10, not a single passenger wearing a life jacket and lack of divers nearby.

If Chatterjee doesn’t respond within stipulated time, the RMC will not just start legal proceedings against the company but also terminate a three-year-old contract with it for maintaining Ranchi Lake and adjoining Nigam Park.

“We met our legal team before serving the showcause,” said incumbent RMC CEO Manoj Kumar.

“According to section 6 of our agreement, the firm (Chatterjee International) is mandated to put in place adequate safety mechanisms before starting boating,” he said.

If Chatterjee International forfeits the contract, it stands to lose Rs 70 lakh that it invested for the project, including cleaning activities and construction of a community hall.

Of the four who died, three persons, including Sana Mukherjee (3), were members of the Chatterjee family.

The sole VIP passenger on board was tourism secretary Sajal Chakraborty, known to be close to the Chatterjees, who escaped with minor injuries.

A division bench of Chief Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Aparesh Kumar Singh of Jharkhand High Court, which initiated a suo motu PIL, called the tragedy “shocking”.

The court issued notices to Ranchi Municipal Corporation, Jharkhand State Tourism Development Corporation, India Tourism Development Corporation and the state government to inform what security and safety measures are put in place while promoting water recreation facilities.

The bench asked the government about procedures followed while granting permission or licence to private firms to run adventure sports activities on water that could prove hazardous to human life.

The court also said the government would have to explain whether there was any safety mechanism in place on December 15, when the boat capsized in Ranchi Lake.

The bench asked if there were trained personnel to steer the boat and whether or not there were enough life jackets on board for passengers.

“Jharkhand has tremendous tourism potential. But accidents such as these will adversely tourism as well as the state exchequer,” the bench observed.

The court will hear the case again on January 13, 2014.


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