Most of the passengers on the ferry between Guwahati and North Guwahati on Wednesday were not seen using the lifejackets. It is a different matter that lifejackets were made mandatory by the State Transport Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary on Monday.
A report published in the The Telegraph stated that the decision of putting on lifejackets for each passenger while boarding the vessels was taken in a review meeting at the Directorate of Inland Water Transport Office in Guwahati, after the boat capsize on September 5 last that took four lives.
“We were not provided any lifejackets. But a number of lifejackets were displayed around the vessel. They will throw this to us when we are going to die,” fumed a peeved passenger, who had waited for an hour to board a vessel going to Madhyam Khanda Ghat from here. The vessel, M.V. Melvinejones, leave Guwahati for Madhyam-khanda Ghat after every hour.
IWT Director Bharat Bhushan Dev Choudhury informed that in all the five ghats here, seven Government vessels were running now after every hour. The report further quoted the Director as saying, “According to the new order from the Transport Ministry, we had asked for lifejackets and lifebuoys, depending upon the number of passengers, from the officials in each ghat. It will take time to develop this mechanism as most of the passengers board the vessel without tickets.”
Choudhury said the cooperation of the passengers, enforcement cell, river police and city administration will be needed to enforce this rule. “We must build up a mechanism where a passenger without a lifejacket may be held back and penalised,” added Choudhury.
Lifebuoys and lifejackets in sufficient numbers were allegedly dumped at the storehouse of the IWT Department in Guwahati-North Guwahati ghat on the day of the capsize here. The Director admitted that most of the equipment is “outdated” and that they would procure more once they get the requirement from each ghat. The director added that certification and availability of the equipment is a long procedure. “We cannot hurry the matter else there might be scams,” said Choudhury.