| A life jacket and a lifebuoys on a boat |
Guwahati, May 23: The Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) has provided safety equipment such as life jackets and lifebuoys to the Inland Water Transport (IWT) department ahead of the monsoon.
“We have provided 4,350 life jackets and 2,175 lifebuoys to the inland water transport department ahead of the monsoons to ensure safety of the people travelling in the vessels,” an ASDMA official told The Telegraph today.
The state disaster management authority had earlier proposed to the state government for provision of safety equipment to the IWT department as well as the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF).
“The department’s proposal was approved by the government, and accordingly, the equipment was provided to the IWT department. Besides, 700 life jackets and 250 lifebuoys were provided to the SDRF through their respective district disaster management authorities to facilitate flood rescue operations in the state,” the official said.
More than 40 passengers were feared drowned in a boat capsize at Medattari in Dhubri district on April 30, 2012. After the incident, the state disaster management authority had asked the inland water transport department to take safety awareness measures, including strict adherence to the carrying capacity norms for ferries.
Sources here said overloading was still a common feature in the engine-operated small boats, known as bhut-bhutis. In Dhubri district alone, there are nearly 4,000 boats, including fishing boats, bhut bhutis (engine-fitted small boats) and mar-boats (two enjoined boats).
“During 2012-13, we asked the IWT department to ensure that ferries do not exceed the goods and passenger-carrying capacity,” he said.
The inland water transport department has three divisions — Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Silchar.
“The safety equipment were received by the department a couple of months back and we have ensured that we make passengers aware of their safety and the need to wear life jackets during a journey. From time to time, enforcement groups keep tabs on passengers and how many of them a particular vessel carries,” said an IWT official here.
The water level of the Brahmaputra, given the overnight rain in the past few days, is rising. “As of today, it has not crossed the danger level and so we have kept the Guwahati-north Guwahati ferry service unaltered,” he said.
Nine vessels operate between Guwahati and the four ghats of north Guwahati — Majgaon Madhyamkhanda, Rajaduwar and Kuruwa. About 10,000 people use ferry services to and from these ghats on a weekday.
Apparently, this correspondent did not find a single passenger wearing the life-saving equipment in one of the vessels on the Guwahati-north Guwahati route this afternoon.
“Most of them prefer not to wear the safety jackets because of the short distance. But things will change once they make it a habit to wear them,” the IWT official added.