Nine people are feared drowned in a boat capsize in Mand area,which is an island between two streams of the river Beas,in Kapurthala district on Thursday morning. The boat was ferrying 17 youngsters,mostly in the 17 to 25 age group. The youngest victim is 13 and the oldest 74. Eight swam to safety but are said to be in deep shock. All the victims hail from Munda village in Tarn Taran district.
The victims were crossing the river to attend a two-day annual Amavas fair organised in memory of Bhai Lalo Ji in a gurudwara at Dalla village of Sultanpur Lodhi sub-division in Kapurthala.
The current in the water was strong when the boat capsized near Rampur Gore village. Heavy rains hampered rescue operations.
Among those still missing were Jasbir Singh,13,Harpreet Singh,20,Bachan Singh,74,Kanwaljit Singh,Jugraj Singh,Hardev Singh,22,Bassan Singh,Jassa Singh,another Hardev Singh 22. Those who swam to safety included Jagrup Singh,17,Daljit Singh,18,Hardev Singh,18,Bajinder Singh,17,Gurjant Singh,16,Navdeep Singh 18 and Rajveer Singh18 all residents of Munda village and Gurbhej Singh,who was ferrying the boat of Rampur Gore village.
Gurjant and Navdeep did not know swimming but were saved by Jagrup,Daljit and Hardev.
The incident took place at 9.15 am when they were just a few minutes away from Rampur Gore. The boat was halfway down the 800 meters broad river when a wooden plank on the side of the boat broke and water started filling in. Those who knew swimming jumped into the river while the others sank,said one of the survivors Rajveer Singh. He said they had left the village at 7 am this morning and had langar (community food) on the way before boarding the boat. Rajveer said that due to filling of the water in the boat capsized in no time and all sitting on it came under its heavy weight.
To reach the spot was quite a tough exercise as one needs to tread around two kilometers in the muddy fields after leaving the vehicles on the road to reach the bank of river where the mishap took place.
The sarpanch of Munda village Paramjit Singh,said that people from Tarn Taran district cross the two streams of river Beas to reach Dalla and the boat capsized in the first stream,he added. Sultanpur Lodhi DSP Mandeep Singh Gill,who was on the spot,said that nine persons are missing while eight swam to safety. Police,local residents and divers are making all efforts to locate the missing while Pong Dam authorities had been requested to decrease the flow of water in the river,he added.
Sultanpur Lodhis Congress MLA Navtej Singh Cheema said they have been demanding motorboats for crossing the river. He also demanded Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the families of each missing person.
We tried to stop him
We stopped him but he insisted. So I took him quickly so that he could catch the very first ferry, said an inconsolable Charanjit Singh,elder brother of Jasbir (13). I was not aware that he would meet such a fate, he said.
Jasbir,a student of class 7th,was the youngest among those who drowned in the Beas on Thursday morning. The tragedy has left the entire village in a state of shock. I drove fast to drop him after he got permission from elders, he said. It is learnt that due to popularity of the Dalla fair large number of people from various villages of Tarn Taran used to visit it and long queues could be seen on the bank of river to get a boat to cross the river. Hardevs family too was inconsolable. He had come from Duabi to his native village recently and was supposed to go back soon but wanted to attend the fair before leaving. This tragedy was waiting for him, said Paramjit Singh,village sarpanch. A majority of those who drowned belonged to good families and were studying in schools,colleges and even in engineering colleges.
ANJU AGNIHOTRI CHABA