A survivor of the tragic machine boat mishap at Majgaon Ghat near Aswaklanta Temple (in Guwahati, Assam) – Loknath Barman of Rajaduar area who saved quite a few lives – has claimed that 42 people boarded the bhut-bhuti on fateful Wednesday. The official figure is much below 42.
(It may be recalled that three people were killed and at least 11 were missing after a bhut-bhuti – a country-made boat fitted with an engine – carrying over 40 passengers capsized in Brahmaputra on Wednesday afternoon)
Talking to Northeast Now, 42-year-old survivor Barman said, “I can give this statement in court too that there were 42 people, 8 motorbikes and two bicycles on the bhut-bhuti. Dimpi and Ankita were sitting on the steps leading to the lower deck of the boat.”
Barman informed that a lot of people from Mandakata, Sipajhar and Rajaduar area were on board the ill-fated mechanised boat. “When the boat crashed with a concrete pillar, I somehow managed to cling on to an iron bar and rescued around six to seven people. I also rescued one family (read husband, wife and their child) who had come all the way from Lumding on a sight-seeing tour to Guwahati,” said Barman, a resident of Rajaduar area.
Explaining in details about the accident, he further stated, “We requested the boatman repeatedly to somehow steer the boat safely to the bank as soon as we saw smoke billowing out of the boat engine. But, the boatman lost control and hit the mechanised boat against the iron pillars of the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA)-constructed water projects in the river and capsized.”
Amarendra Baruah, a resident of Bihalongoni Village, alleged that the bhut-bhuti drivers steal fuel from the Government ferries. “The machine boat drivers steal fuel from the Government ferries or they might be hands-in-gloves with the Inland Water Transport Department (IWTD) personnel and this is why boat mishaps occur in such frequent intervals.”
He also had his “misgivings” about how the IWTD personnel gave clearance to these bhut-bhutis – “Right from the boatmen to the topmost IWTD official – most of them are involved in corruption and murky deals due to which innocent lives were lost. This entire clamour is just for few days. Everything will be back to its usual self after few days and the bhut-bhutis will start plying again after few days,” fumed Baruah.