MANGALURU: When Food and Civil Supplies Minister U T Khader inaugurated a motor boat at Pavoor Uliya island on the outskirts of Mangaluru a few days ago, the villagers thought that their long-pending demand has been met and reaching the mainland will be easier. Soon, they realised that the minister had jumped the gun in the wake of the fast-approaching election and the boat which they were waiting for years is yet to hit the waters.
Though the 25-seater fibre glass passenger boat procured by the Zilla Panchayat under Calamity Relief Fund was ready more than six months ago, sources said the local gram panchayat was reluctant to take possession and operate it because of the high cost involved in its regular maintenance. But then, the minister, who is also the local MLA, went ahead with its inauguration by posing for photographs with a toy boat.
The villagers said the boat was promised more than a year ago following a number of requests. “Over the years, lives have been lost unnecessarily in the absence of a health centre in the island and efficient means of transport to the mainland. In the last 20 years, five persons died on their way to the hospital,” said Laveena D’Souza, who lost her child. The island also harbours more than 50 students who travel out of the island regularly to school and college. While it is a long-standing wish of the islanders to have a bridge, a satisfactory substitute for the moment was seen in the motor boat that was promised to the people in 2017.
Khader did not reply to calls and messages for his reaction.
The motor boat was manufactured six months ago, said G K Naik, Junior Engineer, Zilla Panchayat, who is awaiting the panchayat’s signature to bring the procured boat to the island.Pavoor Uliya PDO Naveen said he knew about the boat being ready only a month ago, and is planning to set up a committee in a week to decide on the maintenance and manning of the boat.
“After discussions with the people and the CEO about who to employ for manning the motor boat and if the local volunteers should be trained for the job or someone new is to be brought, and the expenditure involved in running the boat, it will be physically inaugurated,” he said. Grants are being looked into, apart from panchayat arrangement and sponsors for the maintenance, he said.