SONUTIKRA (SAMBALPUR):Sonutikra Ghat on the outskirts of the city wears a deserted look. It has been two years since 31 picnic revellers lost their lives after a boat carrying them across Hirakud Dam Reservoir (HDR) capsized at the ghat but boat services are yet to resume from the ghat.
Except for a few fishing boats and the ill-fated boat which was retrieved from under water floating on the reservoir, there is no trace of visitors to the site.
Though the then RDC (Northern Division) Pramod Meherda completed the probe within the stipulated period on the direction of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, the report is yet to be made public.
On February 9, 2014 tragedy had struck HDR after a mechanised boat carrying picnic revellers on its way to Sonutikra Ghat under Dhankauda block here had capsized claiming 31 lives, including children and women. Overloading of the boat was cited as the reason.
Since then plying of two passenger boats between Sonutikra Ghat and Marangdungri Ghat has been stopped affecting movement of passengers between Sambalpur and Jharsuguda districts.
District Panchayat Officer, Sambalpur, Niranjan Hota said they had approached the Water Resources Department requesting them to take over the management of Sonutikra Ferry Ghat as the local gram panchayat was reluctant to manage it after the incident. The department, in reply, stated the ghat would be managed by the panchayat, he said.
Subsequently, Talab panchayat held an auction for the ghat in August last year. The auction was awarded to the highest bidder Tulasi Behera of Sonutikra village for seven months till March at a price of Rs 70,000. As Behera does not own any boat, the service is yet to resume.
On the other hand, Satyanand Pandey, who owned the ill-fated boat, is struggling to run boats but in vain.
Pandey said the boat, which had capsized, and another boat, is ready to sail. He has also procured life jackets, heavy duty life saving tubes, fire extinguishers, lifeline rope and first aid box to prevent recurrence of any such incident. Despite all requisite clearances, he failed to clinch the auction, he rued.
Dhankauda BDO Ashok Kumar Gartia said Behera is yet to get into an agreement with the authorities. Boat services can resume only after one completes the formalities, including the agreement.