May 23, 2017 12:54:59 am
In an attempt to discourage the use of semi-mechanised boats to ferry people across the Ganga, the state government announced that it would soon introduce five steel vessels, each with a 250-seat capacity, to ensure increased safety of passengers. Following the deaths of 17 people in the Telinipara jetty collapse in Hooghly, sources said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had asked officials to initiate a River Safety Campaign to revamp jetties and ensure safety of passengers. Under this campaign, the transport department will provide five steel vessels — strong enough to withstand high tides — to operate on the Ganga.
The vessels, built by the West Bengal Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation, will be handed over to West Bengal Transport Corporation soon, said sources. As per official sources, the cost for one vessel is around Rs 1.60 crore, bringing the cost for five to around Rs 8 crore.
“We are already floating five vessels, and each has 250 seats. The vessels have been made by West Bengal Transport Corporation. This will be formally inaugurated shortly,” said Principal Secretary (Transport) Alapan Bandopadhyay.
As per sources, a large number of people are still dependent on semi-mechanised boats, which don’t follow any safety measures.
In the second phase of the campaign, for which no time frame has been announced, the transport department is planning to introduce another 24 vessels. Of them, 12 will be made of wood, and will be able to ferry 100 passengers at a time.
The department also introduced the Jalodhara Scheme, under which owners of semi-mechanised boats will be given financial assistance to convert them to safer boats.
Under this scheme, the government will pay 30 per cent of the total conversion cost, which would come to a maximum of Rs 1 lakh. As per sources, the government has identified around 14,000 semi-mechanised boats operating on the Ganga.
“Strong steel vessels would curb such accidents. They will be safe and registered, and will help organise river transport,” said an official.
The department is also working to revamp wooden and bamboo jetties into concrete and permanent ones. As per official sources, the state has 1,000 jetties, out of which 700 see frequent use. Of the 700 jetties, 138 have been identified as major jetties and 121 as semi-major jetties. Around 250 jetties are likely to be upgraded and will be brought under standard operating procedures.
“Facilities like proper lighting, drop gates and safety jackets will be made available. Civic volunteers will be deployed near jetties, and timings of high tide will be displayed in writing. We will be taking several measures to generate awareness on waterways safety,” said an official.
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