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HC fiat for safe tourist spots

Jharkhand High Court on Friday directed the state tourism department to ensure immediate implementation of safety measures in hotspots, hearing a suo motu PIL related to the Ranchi Lake boating tragedy on December 15, 2013, which claimed four lives.

A division bench of Chief Justice R. Banumathi and Justice S. Chandrashekhar observed that lack of safety measures in tourist spots resulted in loss of lives and pinned the blame on the state.

The state government has sought “four weeks” to frame safety rules at tourist spots. The court will take up the matter after a month.

During the hearing, the high court remarked the state had tremendous tourism potential but the government’s inability to harness it made it lose out on revenue.

The tourism department, which filed an affidavit, admitted currently there were no rules to monitor safety in tourist sports, especially those near water bodies. The affidavit also stated the waterfalls near Ranchi were dangerous.

Counsel for the state, additional advocate-general Jai Prakash added the tourism department had taken up the matter in earnest and was studying existing safety rules in other states to frame its own.

The state tourism department is headed by minister Suresh Paswan of the RJD. Its new principal secretary is Vishnu Kumar.

Counsel for the state Prakash said the primary responsibility of visitor security at a tourist spot lay with respective deputy commissioners and superintendents of police.

The Ranchi Lake incident, in which 17 persons, including then tourism secretary Sajal Chakraborty, were packed in a motorboat for a joyride without life jackets, served as a shocking eye-opener.

Four persons, including three-year-old Sana Mukherjee, died when the overloaded boat capsized in the middle of the lake. The joyride was a joint venture of Ranchi Municipal Corporation and a private firm.