Assam govt puts temporary ban on country boat services

GUWAHATI: Assam transport minister Chandra Mohan Patowary has said that mechanised country boats (bhut-bhutis) would not be allowed to ply in the entire river system of Assam until further orders.
Patowary also announced that all single-engine ferries should be converted to double-engine ones with reversible gears.
The minister had visited the Inland Water Transport directorate here and conducted a review meeting on Monday. an official statement issued here said.
“As per the safety norms, there must be one life jacket for each passenger in the vessel and it will be mandatory for each passenger to put on the life jacket while boarding the vessel,” Patowary said.
He further instructed that the deputy commissioners shall conduct safety audit of the ferry vessels within their respective districts.
The move comes in the wake of a boat mishap in North Guwahati recently, resulting in at least three deaths.
The minister also took stock of the World Bank funded project preparation and the reform measures initiated during the last one and a half year.
The World Bank funded project will address the sector reforms holistically, for which Inros Lackner – the German consultant has submitted the inception report while the vessel design and terminal design are being readied.
The transport department has been working on a Regulatory Bill for the past six months and the ‘Assam Inland Water Transport Reorganisation Act’ is ready to be placed before the Assam Legislative Assembly during the forthcoming session for approval.
The Act will facilitate the setting up of a separate regulatory authority and separate port and shipping management companies, taking into the consideration the recommendations of the Khosla Committee Report submitted in 2013.
The minister also directed that capacity building of IWT staff and other stakeholders must be enhanced on a war-footing. He said that the fact that adequate attention on fleet modernisation was not given in the past for which vessels operating both under IWT and private operators turned old.
However, during the past two years, work for 15 steel vessels and three wooden vessels has been undertaken.
As per the present status, four steel vessels in Barak, one steel and three wooden vessels in Majuli have already been deployed. The remaining 10 vessels will be completed within this financial year.
It may be mentioned that three new vessels will be introduced between Guwahati-North Guwahati shortly.
In addition to this, there has been better coordination with Inland Waterways Authority of India and one Ro-Ro service has already been introduced on the Dhubri-Hatsingimari route.
The second and third Ro-Ro service will be introduced between Majuli-Kamalabari and Guwahati-North Guwahati in October and December respectively.

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