Godavari boat tragedy exposes serious safety lapses

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Despite frequent boat accidents in the Godavari and Krishna rivers claiming several lives, no precautionary measures are being taken to prevent them.

Twenty-one persons drowned in the Krishna on November 12, 2017, when a boat carrying tourists to Pavitra Sangamam, near Ibrahimpatnam, on the outskirts of Vijayawada, capsized. Sixteen persons were rescued.

Nineteen persons drowned when a boat overturned in the Godavari near Manturu village in East Godavari district in May, 2018. Seventeen persons survived.

According to officials, many private boat operators don’t follow the rules prescribed by the Indian Registration of Shipping and the Inland Vessels Act, 1917.

Sources say that more than 40 boats operate in the Krishna and about 75 in the Godavari. However, only a few possess fitness certificates as per the Public Canals and Ferry Act, 1890. “Permission should be given only after verifying the hull shape, motor capacity, tonnage, length and breadth, bottom and other specifications. Many private boat owners are flouting the norms,” an irrigation official told The Hindu.

No follow-up action

The AP Tourism Department Corporation (APTDC) operates 52 boats in Vijayawada, Nagarjuna Sagar, Dindi Resorts, Rajamahendravaram, Sri Sailam, Pattiseema, Kakinada, Visakhapatnam, Gargeyapuram Cheruvu, Brahmasagaram and other tourist spots. However, unconfirmed reports say that over 200 boats operate in rivers and canals to tourist places without licence and ignoring safety norms.

After the boat tragedy in the Krishna in 2017, the then TDP government constituted a committee to study the licensing system for boats in other States. However, there was no follow-up.

AP State Disaster Response and Fire Services personnel said owners should follow all fire safety norms and ensure that the boats contain fire extinguishers, caution boards, sand buckets and other fire-fighting equipment. “Inflammable material should not be carried on the boats and smoking should not be allowed. Boat drivers should not allow overcrowding on the vessels,” a fire official said. To prevent tragedies, officials should conduct raids regularly at the tourist spots, said B. Soujanya, a tourist.

Boat owner booked

The police have registered a case of criminal negligence against Venkata Ramana, the owner of the boat that capsized on Sunday, and a few others for operating the boat though the Godavari was in spate.

Meanwhile, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has announced ex gratia of ₹ 5 lakh each to the victims hailing from Telangana.

(With inputs from Hyderabad)

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