Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, in wake of the boat accident in the Brahmaputra river following a collision, on September 9 banned all single-engine private boats from plying to Majuli and ordered a high-level probe in the accident that claimed the life of a woman.
Parimita Das died and two people are still missing while the National Disaster Response Force and the State Disaster Response Force personnel rescued 87 people.
According to police, private boat ‘Ma Kamala’, travelling from Neamatighat to Kamalabari ferry point in Majuli island, collided with mechanised ferry ‘Tripkai’, operated by the state Inland Water Transport (IWT) department, as it was heading for Neamatighat, leading to the accident.
Local people in Majuli on September 9 organised a massive protest over the boat accident leading to the police carrying out a baton charge to disperse them.
Power minister Bimal Bora, who reached Majuli ahead of chief minister’s visit, was surrounded by the agitated mob, and sat on the highway at Garmur Chariali for around 30 minutes, trying to talk to the protesters. When the angry people demanded that the chief minister must come and talk to them, Borah was escorted away by the police.
Later, after visiting the accident site, the chief minister told the media that initial inquiry suggested that mismanagement was the key reason.
Sarma said that he has asked the Jorhat district administration to file a criminal case against the wrongdoers and added that a high-level probe would find out the reasons behind the accident.
He said that plying of all private ferries would be stopped as they don’t have marine engines. “However, if the owners wish to convert the single engine to marine engine, the state government would provide a grant of Rs 10 lakh with 75 per cent subsidy. From now onwards, four IWT ferries would provide service between Kamalabari and Neamatighat and soon two more ferries would be sent to Majuli. Apart from the ferries, two Ro-Pax would also be operationalised,” he added.
About the status of the bridge connecting Jorhat with Majuli, the chief minister said that construction would start from November and it would take four years to complete.
Transport minister Chandra Mohan Patowary, revenue and disaster management minister Jogen Mohan, power minister Bora and director general of police Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta were also present.
Sarma also visited the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital and interacted with the injured. He also visited Majuli and met representatives of All Assam Students Union and other local organisations and listened to the issues raised by them.
He assured that the government would take all necessary steps to ensure passenger safety and hassle-free movement of ferries between Kamalabari and Neamatighat.
Ferries are the only mode of communication between Majuli and Jorhat but the transport means is often hazardous, especially during the monsoon months (June to September) when the river remains swollen.