Engineers owing allegiance to the Association of Engineers, Kerala (AEK), Irrigation Engineers’ Association and Kerala PWD Graduate Engineers’ Association will go on mass casual leave on Tuesday, 13 October, in protest against what they termed the attempt to victimise their colleague and Chief Inspector of Boats, M. Mathews, in connection with the Thekkady boat tragedy.
According to K.P. Haranbabu, general secretary, AEK, the fitness certificate for boats is even now given on the basis of the provisions of the 90 year old Canal Act of Travancore. The provisions under the Act were more suitable to the early years of the last century, he said, and added that no steps have been initiated so far to update the provisions of this outdated Act.
The chief inspector of boats was not allowed to express his opinion at any stage of the construction of the boat and the authorities had no technical mechanism to check the stability of the vessel, he said.
“The chief inspector of boats had no other go, but to certify it under the existing conditions,” he alleged.
The Association leaders alleged that there was nothing unusual about the certification process and added that they were forced to certify school buildings, cinema halls, galleries and temporary podiums erected during the visit of VIPs in this manner. Often they were forced to issue fitness certificates under pressure from superior officers, they said.
The authority to issue stability of the vessel (with a seating capacity of more than 25) was the Indian Registrar of Shipping and the responsibility of getting the certificate lay with the owner (in this case, the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation), they pointed out and alleged the move to ‘victimise’ the chief inspector of boats was part of an attempt to save the face of KTDC authorities and to protect the real culprits.