VIJAYAWADA/RAJAMAHENDRAVARAM: The State government on Thursday constituted a committee headed by Special Chief Secretary (Irrigation) to probe the boat capsize in River Godavari on September 15 that claimed at least 47 lives. The committee will submit its report within 21 days. The panel will be headed by Special Chief Secretary (Irrigation) as chairman, Special CS (Revenue), Principal Secretary (Tourism), Additional DG (Law and Order) and Director (Ports) as its members. The East Godavari district collector will be the convenor of the panel.
The committee will study the cause of the boat tragedy, fix responsibility and suggest measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future. It will also suggest ways for physically restraining un-licensed, unfit and unregistered boats at ferry point, running of the control room at ferry points. Meanwhile, Royal Vasishta owner K Venkata Ramana was reportedly taken into custody by police.
Rescue workers continued their efforts to trace the bodies of the missing passengers, but could not retrieve a single body on Thursday. Experts are examining various options to retrieve the sunken boat as they feel that the remaining passengers, who are still untraceable, might be trapped in the deck.
Former MP GV Harsha Kumar alleged that there were 93 passengers on board the ill-fated boat, not 73 as claimed by the government. Stating that he has evidence to prove his claims, Harsha alleged that Tourism Minister Avanti Srinivas had directed the Devipatnam sub-inspector, who stopped the boat, to allow it to proceed to Papikondalu.
Avanti Srinivas, however, refuted the allegations. He challenged Harsha Kumar to either prove the allegations or else be ready to face the consequences. He said he would file a defamation case against Harsha Kumar for his derogatory remarks.