RAJAHMUNDRY: Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Monday conducted an aerial survey of the boat mishap site and later, at a review meeting, expressed his anger over the absolute lack of coordination among the different departments, namely irrigation, police and tourism departments, in regulating private boat operators.
Chairing the meeting at the sub-collector’s office, the Chief Minister posed a series of questions to which the officials had no answer. “If government boats were stopped due to flood inflows, why were private boats allowed to operate? What answer do you have? Why were no control rooms set up at important points as per the GO issued last year?” he asked when officials informed him that the five government boats operating in the Godavari were stopped. The control rooms were to be set up jointly by the irrigation, police and tourism departments.
Cautioning that accidents like the latest one should not recur, he said the panel being formed with irrigation special chief secretary as its head to suggest measures for the same. It will submit a report in three weeks, action on the same should start from the fourth week. It will be the responsibility of the panel to ensure control rooms are set up.
The Kakinada Port officials informed the Chief Minister that they had the authority only to issue licence to the boats but not to grant permits for routes. It came to light during the meeting that the ill-fated boat’s licence was extended. With the replies given by the irrigation and tourism department officials, the Chief Minister was left wondering if there was any sort of coordination between the departments.
“If tourism department cannot stop private boats, what about the irrigation department? There is no regulatory mechanism at all. Knowing well that government boats were withdrawn, how could the police let private boats operate? They conducted checks for alcohol in the boats and clicked passengers’ photos but did not bother to think why the private boats are operating in the first place,” he said. Taking serious note of the lapses, he felt nobody seems bothered about anything which is the main reason for the accident. He directed the officials to immediately set up control rooms to monitor and regulate movement of boats on the river. He also questioned as to why can’t private operations be completely banned if it was felt they couldn’t be regulated. Recalling that ex gratia of `10 lakh was announced for the bereaved families, Rs 3 lakh for the injured and Rs one lakh for the survivors, he pointed out that the solatium was being paid since the government was on the wrong side.
When the Chief Minister enquired about the rescue operations, the officials said that the boat was lying at a depth of 300 meters and the location was identified. “Recover the boat as soon as possible,’’ Jagan said and added that if necessary, Navy and expert divers should be pressed into service.Telangana Minister Erraballi Dayakar Rao, Ministers Alla Nani, Sucharita, Subhas Chandra Bose, Kanna Babu and others were present at the meeting.
Panel on accident
A committee headed by irrigation department special chief secretary formed to look into the circumstances that led to the boat accident and suggest corrective measures will submit its report in three weeks.