For the past 34 years, Rajendra Sahni (55), a fisherman, has been diving in the Ganga for Patna administration. So, it was not unusual when he received a call from officials on Saturday, informing him of a boat capsize. What was unusual was when he reached the spot and found that the boat had capsized only 25 m from the banks. The spot where the boat sunk had water only 15-feet deep. The death toll of the tragedy has climbed to 24 so far.
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Sahni and a dozen other divers took to the cold waters Saturday on the instruction of Patna DM Sanjay Kumar Agrawal. During the exercise, which went on till 11 pm, 20 bodies were fished out. NDRF boats Sunday recovered four more.
However, Sahni has a complaint against the Patna administration. “Can you imagine that a diver gets only Rs 243 for a day, irrespective of the number of bodies he recovers or the people rescues? The government remains apathetic towards clearing our dues. The Patna administration owes us about Rs 3.5 lakh, which has accrued in the course of a year,” Sahni said.
“Ideally, the government should engage divers permanently for the over a dozen ghats, especially on special occasions,” he said. “The deployment of about 20-30 divers on either side of Ganga on the day of the kite-flying festival could have saved many more people,” he said.