Behind Patna boat tragedy: No security review, patrol boats diverted

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Jan 16: Amid the shocking accident in Bihar’s Patna which left 25 people dead after a boat sank in Ganga river, a political outrage has come up with opposition criticizing JD(U) led government over “inadequate arrangements” for festival organised by the tourism department.

The boat sank as it was overcrowded and other factors but officials have informed that there was no security review either by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar or his deputy Tejaswi Prasad Yadav.

“Tourism Minister Anita Devi did not even bother to visit the kite-flying site to review the security arrangements,” said an official.

Earlier on Sunday, Nitish Kumar asked Principal Secretary, Pratyaya Amrit, to submit a full and detailed report to him on the incident and possible failure that led to the accident. Chief Minister also held a meeting regarding the same.

“The CM instructed the Tourism Department and Patna administration to ensure that boats plying on the Ganga conform to all safety norms,” said the government in a statement.

Officials further informed that this incident has revealed loopholes in the system for water transport in the area. They said that there are 50 private boats which ply on this part of Ganga and almost 30 boats are not registered and are without life-jackets and other security measures.

“The boat was primarily used to carry vegetables from Diara to Patna. It was occasionally used to ferry passengers. Yesterday, the boatman was not ready but impatient passengers hopped on to the boat overloading it. The boat had a capacity of 25 passengers but about 50 had boarded it when it capsized,” said a local boatman, who did not wish to be identified.

When asked whether there were any regulations in place for carrying people, another boatman said, “We are rarely asked about lifejackets and other safety measures. It’s up to us to check our engines and the condition of boats. On most festive occasions, our boats are overloaded because the government does not have many boats.”

RJD supremo Lalu Prasad said that “If the government had to organise a kite festival, it should have made adequate and foolproof arrangements. But what I am hearing is that it did not do so.”

BJP leader Sushil Modi also took on Nitish Kumar and told Indian Express that “Chief Minister Nitish Kumar should own up responsibility for the tragedy. He did not conduct any security review for the festival. He does not seem to be interested in programmes that do not give him national publicity.” 

Wefornews Bureau

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