The All Kerala Houseboat Owners’ Association is planning to move court against steps initiated by the Government in the wake of the Thekkady boat tragedy, alleging that official red tape has brought to a halt operation of 90 per cent of the houseboats just when the tourist season was picking up.
The Association, which submitted a memorandum on the issue to the District Collector earlier this month, has sought advice of a lawyer and is preparing documents to approach the court to solve the crisis, its general secretary Rajan Peter Arouje told The Hindu.
According to the Association, authorities had asked the boat owners to anchor their boats to conduct inclination tests for renewal of the Form ‘D’ certificate. However, the Association says that every boat is inspected by the authorities right from the beginning of construction and that inclination tests were done before issuing necessary fitness certificates that authorize the vessel to ply. The boat is also examined every six months to see whether any damage has occurred in between. Conducting yet another inclination test, just because there was a related controversy in connection with the Thekkady boat tragedy, was not justifiable in Alappuzha, the owners argue.
Further, authorities have said that the boat owners will be issued the ‘Form ‘A’ license only after the Form ‘D’ certificate is issued. “Since the latter will be issued after the so-called inclination test, which is totally unwarranted for most boats that operate here since they were already tested, we have been denied the license and in turn, we are not allowed to operate. The situation has caused financial heavy damage to us, because we depend on operations to pay loans taken for construction of the boats,” Mr. Peter says.
Another crisis in the industry was related to the license issued to the ‘serang’ or driver. “For a person to be eligible for this test, he must register as a probationary for one year. But licensed drivers are in shortage because they are not ready to wait for one year, more so because they get licenses quickly if they are to work for the Government. There are many who registered for the probation one year back, but the test is yet to be conducted,” he said.
Another major issue was in connection with the Pollution Control Certificate (PCC). There is no effluent treatment plant in Alappuzha, since the Government proposal to construct one here is still on paper. Boats from Alappuzha are not allowed to register at the plant functioning in Kumarakom, as a result of which no PCC is issued to them.
“Unless immediate action is taken to resolve these issues, the crisis in the houseboat industry here will worsen,” the Association pointed out.