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Panel to keep check on boats

Dhubri, June 9: Dhubri deputy commissioner Kumud Chandra Kalita has constituted a seven-member committee, headed by additional deputy commissioner B. Shyam, to look after the affairs and monitor the movement of waterways transportation.

This was done at the insistence of the inland water transport office that took stock of the prevailing situation following the recent rise in the water level of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries.

An official source in the Dhubri inland water transport (IWT) said the committee was formed after a threadbare discussion with the district administration and officials, headed by IWT director Victor Carpenter, in Dhubri recently.

“Boat owners have to adhere to the norms laid down by the IWT, including keeping lifejackets in the boats and implementation of loading of goods rules. There are some technical aspects of the boats such as its condition and passenger capacity which also have to be followed,” junior engineer of the IWT sectional office, Rubul Goswami, said.

Goswami said there are nine notified ghats under the IWT in Dhubri district.

Four launches ply on the routes to these ghats but with the rise in water level in the Brahmaputra mar-boats (two enjoined boats) would be plied soon.

Lifebuoys and lifejackets ordered for the boats will reach shortly, Goswami added.

However, the fact remains that the Dhubri IWT can only exercise its authority on the boats which ply under its department while it has very little or absolutely no say over the boats which ply under the panchayat and zilla parishad, an official of the IWT alleged.

After the Medattari boat mishap on April 30, 2012, it was demanded that all boats be brought under the purview of registration with the IWT.

But out of the total 631 boat owners who applied for registration in 2012, only 100 actually got registered in the last two years while the applications of 250 boats are still under process, an official said.

The source also alleged that there are nearly 1,500 bhut-bhutis (engine-fitted small boats) that sail from over 50 ghats in Dhubri district.

These bhut-bhutis, which are leased out to lessees by the panchayat bodies and zilla parishads, flout all norms and rules, the source alleged.

Dhubri additional deputy commissioner B. Shyam said the boats flouting norms would be seized. “We are taking serious exception to the flouting of norms by boats owners. We will take action to streamline the waterways transportation.”

Incessant rain since last night, nearly 161.4mm, has caused the Brahmaputra to swell, flowing at 26.59 metres this morning in Dhubri.