No words can describe the agony of families which lost their near and dear in the recent boat tragedy on the river Godavari. No amount of compensation can ever compensate their loss. Even now, almost two weeks since the boat capsized, there are families waiting for the bodies to be recovered. If their plight is heart-breaking, the sight of officials passing the buck just a day after the accident, right in front of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, was disgusting.
The state government believes 77 people were on board the ill-fated vessel when it ran into a whirlpool while negotiating a particularly dangerous stretch. Of them, 26 were rescued and till date, 38 bodies recovered. Search operations are still on to trace the remaining. It was an avoidable accident if only the administrative machinery had followed the guidelines issued in November 2017 after a similar incident in the river Krishna claimed 21 lives.
Last year, two such accidents occurred in the Godavari killing altogether 25. If one checks the guidelines, it becomes crystal clear that the latest tragedy was waiting to happen. Contrary to the norms, no control rooms were set up at notified ferry points, forget being in touch over wireless sets with the boats plying in their jurisdiction, and no stationary disaster response teams were on standby. Worst of all, no one was bothered about granting or rejecting route permissions keeping in mind the increasing flood flow. At the time of the accident, the Godavari was swelling with five lakh cusecs of flood water.
Officials of the Kakinada Port, Water Resources, Revenue, Tourism and Police Departments claim they are not responsible for keeping tabs on boats ferrying tourists. Point to note here is that government boats were not allowed to ply and somebody let private operators have their way. Given the lack of coordination among the departments and gross dereliction of duty, the government must crack the whip and take criminal action against erring officials. Else, it will be business as usual until yet another tragedy strikes.