Boats flout safety guidelines, risk human lives in Odisha

Malkangiri/Kendrapara: More than 5,000 residents of MV 27 village of Malkangiri risk their lives every day while crossing the Potaru river on boats. While most boats are partially damaged, others vehemently flout the safety norms.

With no lifebuoy, life jackets or fire fighting equipment, there is practically nothing to help the commuters in case of any emergency.

People in at least more than 150 villages depend on these boats to ferry them across the river. However, the entire journey is very scary. Sadly we have no alternatives and are forced to board these over-loaded boats,” said a resident of Malkangiri who uses the boats on a daily basis.

In fact we are forced to ply the boats through the turbulant river even during rain and thunderstorms Travelling on road will require us to travel an additional 60- to 70 kilometres which is practically difficult. That is the main reason why most of us prefer to take the river route to reach our work places,” said another resident of Malkangiri.

The case is no different in Bahakud ghat of Mahandi river in Kendrapara’s Mahakalapada. Thousands of people of five panchayats rely on these boats and ferries which carry people and vehicles. These boats too carry more than the prescribed weight, throwing human lives in danger.

At least 2, 524 motorised and un-motorised boats have been registered across the State of which 243 are government-run boats while 2,281 boats are maintained privately.

Around 12,000 lifebuoy, 63,000 life jackets and 1,900 fire fighting equipment, are required for the safety of the travellers in these registered boats but the State Government has so far provided only 1,525 lifebuoy, 6, 645 life jackets and 305 fire fighting tools for those boats.

Director of Odisha Inland Water Transport Directorate (IWTD), Subrat Kumar Rout said, “We have to run the boats with limited man power. Regular inspection is must for these boats but frequent checks have become difficult due to lack of officials,” he informed.