With the recovery of four more bodies, the toll in boat tragedy in river Ganga here climbed to 24 today while Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered a high-level inquiry and directed strict action against those responsible for any lapses. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chief Minister announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 4 lakh respectively to the kin of those killed in the incident.
The boat was ferrying people who were returning from a four-day kite festival organised by the state tourism department on the occasion of ‘Makar Sankranti’ when it capsized near NIT ghat last evening apparently due to “overloading”.
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Asked if there could be more bodies in the river, Principal Secretary (Disaster Management) Pratyaya Amrit told PTI that it was unlikely but the rescue work by the SDRF and NDRF teams was on.
“No more family has come forward to claim about missing kin in the boat tragedy,” he said. The boat had about 40 people on board who were returning to Ranighat in Patna from Sabalpur diara (riverine area) across the river after watching the kite festival.
The boat had been retrieved from the Ganga, the senior official said adding it was intact.
“We are saddened by this terrible tragedy and are with the families in this hour of grief. The Chief Minister has announced ex-gratia….
“He has ordered a high level probe into the incident and directed that strict action should be taken against those responsible for any lapses,” state Tourism Minister Anita Devi said.
The Minister, however, rejected suggestions that adequate arrangements had not been made by the department for the event.
“We had made all arrangements and informed local authorities in writing. But there were some private boat operators,” she said.
The Prime Minister today sanctioned Rs 2 lakh each to the next of kin of those killed from the PM National Relief Fund. Those seriously injured will be given Rs 50,000 each, the PMO said.
In the wake of the tragedy, a programme to mark the start of redevelopment work of Mahatma Gandhi Setu in Patna which he was to address today via video conferencing was also postponed, the PMO said.
The Chief Minister also directed the officials to provide ex-gratia assistance of Rs four lakh each to the next of kin of the victims at the earliest.
Kumar directed the Principal Secretary (Disaster Management) Pratyaya Amrit, Central Range DIG Shalin and Patna’s District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar Agrawal to carry out rescue operations on war footing and make proper arrangement for treatment of the rescued people at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH).
The boat tragedy has also led to cancellation of other engagements including ‘dahi-chura’ feast that JD(U) unit president Bashistha Narayan Singh was scheduled to host today.
Expressing grief over the incident, BJP leader and Union Minister Ravishankar Prasad said, “It is tragic that children have lost their lives on a day when we celebrate a festival. Steps should be taken to avoid such mishaps. I am hopeful that action will be taken against those responsible for lapses.”
The four-day kite festival which started yesterday will not continue in the wake of the tragedy.