The Thekkady tragedy — in which 41 tourists drowned on Wednesday in the reservoir when a double-decker boat owned and operated by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation capsized — exposed the hazards of poor management of tourists on board, poor safety measures and the woefully inadequate rescue efforts. The situation is similar in almost all places of tourist attraction across the country. In all the States and at the Centre, we have Ministers of Tourism and bureaucrats who are paid well out of taxpayers’ money but who do precious little to make tourism memorable and safe. The campaign slogan of Indian tourism should be ‘Incurable India,’ not ‘Incredible India.’
The visuals of the tragedy are not only disturbing but also point to the absence of safety arrangements on boats as well as on the shores. Whatever the reason for the accident, the authorities cannot escape responsibility for their failure to ensure adequate safety. Where were the life jackets? Were the tourists told how to use them in case of emergencies?
The drowning of over 40 tourists in the Thekkady reservoir should open the eyes of the government and the public. The official apathy towards visiting tourists must change if Kerala is to remain a tourist destination. I travelled with my family on Jala Kanyaka — the boat that capsized — on Tuesday. I would like to narrate my unforgettable experience.
I was in the queue for a ticket by 6 a.m. The staff started issuing tickets by 7 a.m. and closed the counter after 20 minutes, leaving many disappointed. The most appalling sight was the sale of tickets at higher prices right in front of the counter. The way we were literally herded on to the boat can only be remembered with dismay. There was no display of safety devices or instructions on risks, including moving to one side of the boat. The Kerala government should hang its head in shame.
Time and again, history repeats itself but no tragedy, including drowning incidents, at tourist destinations has stirred our governments to act. Life jackets are available at almost all major lakes of tourist interest, but nowhere is their use enforced. Overloading is almost universal. After the initial emergency measures, the authorities are quick to announce monetary compensation. Then follow the usual blame game and efforts to derive mileage from the incident by political parties.
Sunil P. Shenoy,
The Thekkady tragedy may be the first of its kind in that particular place but numerous accidents happen because of the same reasons — overcrowding, tilting of the boat when passengers rush to one side, and inappropriate safety precautions.
Were adequate safety procedures followed on the Jala Kanyaka? Like sounding the tourists on the dos and don’ts; identifying who can swim and who cannot and isolating the group on this basis; and supplying life-vests and making their use mandatory? The Thekkady tragedy points to a serious lapse of basic safety procedure. It is difficult to control crowds that are excited and lose sight of the dangers involved.
Wednesday saw one of the worst disasters at the Thekkady reservoir. While the rescue and relief operations are in full swing, thanks to the committed and timely participation of the local people, it must be remembered that in 2007 another tragedy took place in Thattekad in Ernakulam, taking away 18 lives. These incidents have created an impression that all is not well in the matter of boat rides. The authorities should find out not only what went wrong and who was responsible for the Thekkady incident but also initiate measures to ensure that such tragedies do not recur. This is not the time to find fault; it is an occasion to plug the loopholes in the system.
T.N. Ramachandran Nair,
Lake cruises are extremely popular. Despite attracting millions of visitors and undertaking many thousand trips, world class cruises operate with impeccable safety records. Some of the safety measures include: ensuring that the cruise staff are trained and certified by maritime agencies; safety announcements prior to and immediately after departure on safety, emergency exit points, seating guidelines and evacuation procedure in case of emergencies; provision of inflatable emergency life rafts which can be activated at the press of a button; and strictly following departure and arrival procedures. During rain or drizzling, the upper deck of a vessel could become particularly dangerous. Special instructions should be given to passengers.
Reji Thomas Mathew,