The High level conference, convened to review safety in tourism Centres against the background of the Thekkady boat tragedy, decided to conduct a safety audit of all boats in service at tourism centres and other locations in the State.

Minister for Home and Tourism Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told the media after the conference that a joint set up involving the Home, Water Resources, Forests and Tourism departments would complete the audit in 10 days. The audit would cover house boats also. Another review would be done after receipt of their report.

The Minister announced that the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday would consider other issues including legislation for ensuring safety. All tourists travelling on boats for sight seeing would be required to wear life jackets. If anyone refuses, they would have to give an undertaking that they were doing so at their own risk. Children below 15 years of age would not be allowed to travel without life jackets under any circumstances.

Mr. Balakrishnan said a lifeguard each would be posted for every 25 passengers in a boat and tickets would be issued with names of the passengers on them. These regulations would apply to boats operated by private parties also. The Tourism Department would place rescue boats at centres selected by it. Arrangements would also be made for providing quick access to medical aid.

He said the Cabinet would take a formal decision requesting the services of a serving judge for the judicial enquiry into the boat tragedy on Wednesday. The government did not propose any police enquiry into the issues related to the purchase of the ill-fated boat until the enquiry report is received.

He said that official agencies were operating about 238 boats in the tourism sector. Private agencies ran about 1500 boats.

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