PATNA: At least 12 people, including five children, drowned in separate incidents in Ganga and Bagmati rivers in Bihar on Sunday, prompting their grieving families and the Opposition parties raise questions over public safety arrangements in and near the rivers in the state.
While three women died by drowning in the Bagmati in Samastipur district when an overcrowded boat capsized in the river, nine others, including five children, drowned in the Ganga during a picnic in Vaishali district. The children were aged between 9 and 14, and all the nine dead people belonged to two families from Mirzapur Nohta near Fatuha in Patna district. On the other hand, at least ten more people were feared to have drowned in the boat capsize in the Bagmati.
In the Ganga incident, the bodies were fished out at Raghopur area on the banks of the rivers by the locals and were sent for autopsy at a government hospital in Fatuha.
“The picnickers were apparently taking a bath in the Ganga when the incident occurred. We have been told that after one child fell into the river, two others jumped to save him but they too started drowning. Then the rest tried to save them, and they all drowned,” said Patna district magistrate Sanjay Agrawal.
In the Bagmati incident, sources said a small boat meant for six people was carrying about 20 people, mostly women, who were crossing the river from Madhurapur Dharmpur Ghat to get fodder for cattle. The bodies of three women in their late 20s were fished out. While divers rescued five people and as many swam to safety, there was no trace of the rest, said sources.
State disaster management minister Dinesh Chandra Yadav sparked a controversy by saying that the “government is not answerable” for these deaths as the people had gone to “dangerous areas in the river” on their own. “Disaster response forces cannot be deployed everywhere,” he said.
The Nitish Kumar-led government announced an ex gratia of Rs 4 lakh for each deceased.