Forums meet this week to discuss issues to be put forward to panel

All stakeholders in the houseboat industry are crossing their fingers over the new rules and regulations to be adopted in the industry after a due process by a nine-member committee of officials whose report will be prepared in 30 days.

The committee will look into the recommendations from those in the industry while preparing the report, and circulate the same to those concerned in the industry too.

The houseboat owners have expressed concern over certain areas that will be trickier for the committee to resolve. These will be in the areas of insurance and pollution, where how the committee tackles the issues will determine the success of the new rules and regulations.

V. Mohandas, president of the State Water Transport Employees Federation, said the Kerala Inland Vessels Rules 2010 which currently regulate houseboats were for inland vessels, including new boats and barges, and not suited for houseboats, which were modified versions of ‘kettuvalloms’ (traditional country boats). “The Travancore Public Canals and Public Ferries Act introduced in 1917 does mention about the country boats. But the 2010 rules failed to accommodate this. The 1917 Act speaks of raw material for ‘kettuvalloms’ as teakwood,” he said.

All Kerala Houseboat Owners Association general secretary N. Sreekumar told The Hindu that a meeting of all houseboat organisations in the district would be held on Wednesday to discuss the issues to be put forward to the committee. A similar meeting of organisations across the State would be held on Thursday, he said.

He said his organisation would suggest the inclusion of security aspects of houseboats in the new rules.

Houseboat owners are mostly happy with the response of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to the problems in the sector at a meeting here on February 1. “We appreciate that the Chief Minister, unlike many in the government and bureaucracy who have been hearing us for the past 15 years, could quickly understand the problems,” said a member of one of the houseboat owners’ organisations.

Nassar M. Pyngamadom, State president of the Tourism Workers Congress (INTUC), in his memorandum to the Chief Minister had demanded international safety standards for the industry, modern firefighting equipment, and training for workers. However, the industry is concerned that though the Chief Minister had promised infrastructure development by the government from the day after the meeting, nothing has materialised so far.

It was pointed out that the matter of expediting the process of giving a green signal to a waste treatment plant to be set up in R-Block, which had hit a roadblock owing to the land being recorded as paddy field in the panchayat records, was pending with the government for more than a month-and-a-half.

The changes in the sector, including the preliminary steps for the new rules and regulations, are likely to be implemented by April 8 when the Chief Minister said he would convene a meeting to take a final call on the issue, provided there is a political will.

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