Ranchi, Aug. 6: Jharkhand High Court today set a three-month deadline for the state government to frame a comprehensive tourism policy, including rules for offering boat rides across the state’s many lakes and waterfalls, the order issued in response to its PIL initiated suo motu after last year’s tragedy that led to the drowning of four persons, including a three-year-old girl, in a capital lake.
A division bench of Chief Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Amitav Kumar Gupta indicated it meant business when it made it clear that the government risked facing contempt proceedings if the order wasn’t complied with in time.
The state, represented by additional advocate-general Jai Prakash, then went on to list a number of steps the government had initiated to frame the policy and the Jharkhand Boat Rules 2014.
Prakash said the government had begun framing a tourism policy and had informed all departments to send in suggestions. As many as 25 departments had already sent in their views, he added.
As for the boat rules, which would incorporate guidelines for operating boats and conducting water sports in tourist spots, he said, a draft had already been sent to the law department for its concurrence.
Referring to the December 15, 2013 boat tragedy that led to the deaths of advocate Nitin Banerjee “Sagarmoy”, his wife Puja Banerjee, Abdul Manan, and three-year-old Sana Mukherjee, Prakash said that considerable work was being done by the tourism department to provide facilities and security to tourists at the waterfalls dotting the capital.
While work on filling two deep water holes at Dassam Falls is pending financial sanction, railings and banisters will be put up at Jonha Falls. A foot overbridge with railings will be constructed at Hirni and Sita Falls.
The government, he added, had also stopped tube and bamboo rafting by local villagers at Hundru Falls for safety reasons. He also told the court that the Ranchi district administration had paid Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of each victim of last year’s accident at Ranchi’s Bada Talab.
Although the PIL was initiated by the high court three days after the tragedy, the court later widened its ambit and included safety measures that were to be implemented at all popular tourist spots.
On December 15, 2013, a group of residents had gathered at Bada Talab, in the heart of the state capital, for the inauguration of boating services. A 10-seater motor boat, packed with over 17 people, including children, capsized in the middle of the lake. While four persons died on the spot, the three-year-old girl succumbed to injuries a day later.
Among those on the boat was officiating chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty — he was tourism secretary then — who managed to swim ashore.