Nearly two months after a speedboat carrying at least 25 people capsized in the Arabian Sea off the Mumbai coast while on way to the proposed site of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial, the state Public Works Department (PWD) will hold a low-key event at the site on Thursday.
The mishap on October 24 had led to the death of one person.
Sources in the PWD said they had sought permission for two boats — one from the Maharashtra Maritime Board and a private one, each able to carry 12 people.
Besides, there will be life jackets, first aid and a life guard on each boat as part of precautionary measures. A formal go-ahead is still awaited from the Mumbai Port Trust and the Maharashtra Maritime Board for the function.
According to the PWD’s plan, the ‘bhoomipujan’ at the site will be held at 3.55 pm on Thursday. Two boats will depart from the jetty at the Gateway of India around 2.30 pm. The PWD has, however, scrapped the plan to video-shoot the event through drone cameras. A group of priests will carry out the ‘bhoomipujan’ at the site, said sources.
Presiding over the event will be legislator Vinayak Mete, chairman of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial Project Implementation, Monitoring and Co-ordination Committee.
“Apart from Mete, senior bureaucrats and PWD officials will be present at the event. It will be a low-key affair this time. We have taken all possible precautions for safety,” said an official.
On October 24, one person died when a speedboat capsized while on its way to the site for the ‘bhoomipujan’.
The boat was carrying officials and workers of Mete’s Shiv Sangram organisation. The ‘bhoomipujan’ was subsequently cancelled. The inquiry into the mishap, ordered by the Maharashtra government, is yet to be completed.
Vice Admiral (retd) I C Rao, who is president of NGO APLI Mumbai, said passenger boats cannot be allowed to go to the Shivaji memorial site.
“Plying passenger boats, that are meant for harbour use, to the site of the memorial in the Arabian Sea is in violation of the Inland Vessels Act. Only boats registered under the Merchant Shipping Act can be permitted to cross the IV limits laid down by Gazette of India and PWD norms,” said Rao.
In December 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the memorial and held a ‘jalpujan’ at the site. Following the boat mishap, Opposition parties had criticised the ‘bhoomipujan’, questioning the need for organising the programme.