‘Jalakanyaka’ did not have fitness certificate and insurance

The ill-fated ‘Jalakanyaka’ that had capsized in the Mullaperiyar reservoir, killing 41 people on board, did not possess the mandatory fitness certificate issued as per the Canals and Ferry Act, according to highly placed sources attached to the Water Resources Department.

Talking to The Hindu on conditions of protecting his identity, a senior expert attached to the Water Resources Department said the boat was pressed into service, sidelining certain key safety regulations.

He further clarified that the boat was not even insured.

Many a boat plying in the Veli Lake, houseboats and many vessels attached to the State Water Transport Department do not possess this annual fitness certificate as per the Canal and Ferry Act, he added.

According to him, the boat tragedy in Thekkady was a testimony to the State’s negligence in ensuring safety of the scores of tourists visiting God’s own Country. It is high time the State authorities reviewed the safety measures in our water transport system, especially in the reservoirs and sanctuary areas, he adds.

The authorities have miserably failed in providing a disaster response system at various major tourist places in the State. The boats deployed in the Thekkady reservoir were not provided with a wireless set or any other communication facility to send an SoS in case of an emergency.

A judicial probe into the boat tragedy would only lead to further waste of the public exchequer and what is needed is a full-fledged inquiry into the technical and safety aspects by a team of experts, he said.

The official alleged that even the advisor to the Chief Minister for inland navigation appeared to have taken a negligent attitude towards various important safety aspects such as this.

Each person on board should have been provided with a life jacket before embarking on a trip in the lake.

It is noteworthy that the KSEB too runs hydel tourism in its reservoirs at Munnar, Madupetty and Kundala at very high altitudes. The sorry state of the boat which runs through Kallada reservoir as part of the eco tourism project should also be taken seriously.

It is equally important that the government should have a self-introspection about the action taken on the recommendations being made by various judicial inquiry commissions in the past, he said.

“A unified disaster response authority with statutory powers for all major tourism centres is a fitting homage we can pay to the victims of the Thekkady boat tragedy to avert such mishaps, at least, in the future,’’ the official said.

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