The boat tragedies in Bihar and Kerala are heart-rending (“No end to boat tragedies”, October 2). The incidents reflect the failure of the authorities to implement basic safety norms. As rightly pointed out, the rules are honoured more in the breach. While it is true that tourists who drowned in the Thekkady reservoir on Wednesday were not wearing life jackets because nobody asked them to do so, two wrongs cannot make a right. Passengers should sit in their seats and not move together to one side during boat journeys.
The Thekkady tragedy was the result of non-vigilance on the part of the authorities and non-compliance of people with safety norms. During a recent boat ride in Udaipur, I noticed that the ticket said wearing a life jacket was mandatory, but no life jackets were available. I was quite surprised by the complacency of the management on such a serious issue.
Even though the chances of an emergency landing are minimum on flights, there are announcements by the cabin crew on the use of life jackets and emergency exits. Boat passengers, too, should be provided with life jackets and tourists instructed on the dos and don’ts before sailing.
It is only when a boat capsizes that we talk of safety in the operation of boats. Only when a road accident happens, do we talk of road safety. But safety consciousness should be inculcated at all levels. The government should have an adviser to study, organise and implement safe practices in road traffic, handling of LPG cylinders and at construction sites to prevent avoidable tragedies.
Those who died in the Thekkady boat tragedy are victims of negligence. Had KTDC been a private organisation, the government would have arrested and prosecuted the owners. Why is nothing being done in the case of KTDC? When you run a boat trip to a tourist spot, you should anticipate that the crowd will surge to one side to take photographs or see animals at close range because that is exactly why they are going there.
The tragedy brings out the fact that tourist destinations in Kerala, especially hill stations and backwaters, lack effective emergency rescue arrangements. Unless safety is guaranteed, there is no point in promoting the natural beauty of Kerala.
Flat-bottomed boats are the best suited for deepwater lakes like Thekkady. They can balance themselves even if there is a tilt due to counter moment. The ill-fated boat at Thekkady was a narrow double-decker fibre boat. Fibre body boats are light in weight and are most suited for speed launches. A boat having steel or wooden body will have more weight and will withstand the water up thrust more effectively. One hopes the government will look into these points while placing orders for new boats.