A two-member committee that has probed the Makar Sankranti boat capsize in the Ganga near Patna has blamed the Bihar tourism department for holding a kite festival without permission and setting up the infrastructure required. Twenty-one people died on January 14 when returning from Sabalpur Diara across the Ganga. A kite festival was held on the other side of the river to coincide with Makar Sankranti.
The committee comprising an IAS and an IPS officer, which submitted its report recently, said none of the 28 private boats operating that day had licence to ferry passengers.
The tourism department had advertised free boat rides to the people on the occasion but had not requisitioned any boat, the report said.
Only a cargo boat was requisitioned for the Chief Minister and other VVIPs, the panel said. But by the time this cargo boat had made its last ride across the Ganga at 3pm, there were still 40,000 people in Sabalpur, waiting to cross the river.
As the tourism department asked everyone to leave, through an announcement around 3.15pm, people started scrambling into private boats, which had no life jackets, the committee noted. It has also blamed the Saran district administration.
Asked about his role, the Saran police chief told the probe committee that he did not know that Sabalpur Diara came under his jurisdiction, the report says. The panel also found out that the sub-divisional police officer of Sonepur, responsible for checking preparations at Sabalpur, did not even visit the site.
“Sonepur SDPO visited a ghat in Patna but did not cross the Ganga to check the preparations because he had to be at home to join his family for the birthday celebration of his daughter,” the report said. The government has transferred Saran DM and SP, and suspended the Sonepur SDO and SDPO.
The team also blamed the Patna executive magistrate, whose office diverted 10 boats of the State Disaster Response Force to ferry passengers. When the boat carrying 40 passengers capsized, there was no patrol boat around to help the victims, the committee observed.