What are the lessons from the ghastly boat accident in Thattekkad, which clearly could have been avoided had basic safety parameters been maintained? Our readers respond:
The Thattekkad boat tragedy in which 15 school children and three teachers lost their lives will disturb us for many years to come. The ill-fated craft was meant for six, but accommodated 40 odd passengers. The leaky boat did not possess a fitness certificate. There was no sane head around to prevent the greedy boatman from dumping the children in the boat. Service of a lifeguard perhaps would have averted the gruesome tragedy. The accompanying authorities were either negligent or failed to see the lurking danger. No wonder, the tragedy was waiting to happen. It is time the Government enacted stringent laws against illegal ferrying, or else such incidents will recur.
Venu C. Nair
Definitely this ghastly boat accident in Thattekkad could have been avoided if the boat driver had followed the basic parameters. Teachers and school authorities should not have allowed sixty children to board in such a small boat. Therefore, the boat driver and the school authorities are equally responsible for this tragedy and they should be punished in an appropriate manner. All the boat drivers should learn a lesson from this accident and follow basic safety measures.
First of all what was the mandate given to the schoolteachers who accompanied the children, by the school management? Were they not expected to return to school on time? And send the children (who were 9 to 10 years old) to their house before night? If that were so how did the teachers take them for the boat ride late in the evening? So who should be held responsible for the tragedy primarily?
The boat driver of course, should be booked for operating an unfit boat without proper approval. But the teachers who accompanied the children should also be held equally, if not more, responsible for the tragedy.
B.C. Unnikrishnan Nair
The boat accident at Thattekkad shows the glaring oversight on the part of the authorities to implement the rules regarding the safety of water transport. The incident shows that the boat did not have a license. The rules regarding the capacity of the vessel was also not adhered to. First, the Government should be put to public trial for its laxity to ensure safety standards. Then the boat driver should be given capital punishment for slaughtering the lives of innocent kids and also their mentors. Let it be an eye-opener for the authorities as they may be cautious in the future.
Comply with laws
Why do we have to wait for a Thattekkad boat accident to correct flaws in a system? The authorities issuing licences for boat operators should strictly enforce the mandatory requisites and compliance of safety parameters. The maximum number of persons seated and standing at a time should be specified and displayed on the boat at all times. An equal number or proportionate number of lifebuoys should be made easily available.
Fire extinguishers should be ensured on every boat. The minimum age of children travelling unaccompanied or accompanied should be listed and displayed. Illegal boat operators and boat owners violating safety norms should be strictly dealt with.
School authorities and teachers should be responsible and accountable for the students entrusted to their charge on excursions. The children should be firmly instructed on the dos and don'ts while going out on picnics. Sufficient number of teachers should accompany the children in order to guide and control them in difficult situations. Children can be trained with basic instructions to face critical situations.
Evolve a plan
The Thattekkad boat tragedy brings into focus the need to have better approach, new law, appropriate authorities and enhanced awareness among people on disaster management in Kerala, in tune with the Disaster Management Act of 2005.
The disaster occurred as the boat was unfit, overloaded and operated by an unlicensed crew, beyond permitted hours, with less number of life buoys. Lack of preventive measures, ill preparedness to handle such disasters and inability to bring the victims to safety within a few minutes after the incident are the reasons for the loss of lives in this tragedy.
A comprehensive disaster management plan involving local governments and local communities is the need of the hour. The reported delay in rescue operation and the absence of a person or agency to coordinate the activities in the governmental system showed the weaknesses in the disaster management system. This emphasises the need to have a disaster management authority and exclusive officers for the purpose in the State.
The measures to enhance the role of community members in disaster relief should be the focus area in the proposed governmental disaster management scheme, which has been in the planning for long.
The boat accident at Thattekkad was a shocking tragedy. The negligence in maintaining the basic safety parameters and carelessness in following the rules put up by the authorities have caused the death of 15 children and three teachers. According to reports, overloading of the boat resulted in its capsize. The boat ventured into remote areas of Periyar's reservoir at a time when any such trips were not permitted. If there had been authorities to regulate these, the tragedy could have been certainly avoided. Since the tragedy struck after sunset, rescue operations were hampered. Lack of communication facilities and first-aid were a setback to the rescue team. The boat used was not evidently fit to be operated and there was only one worker on it when the law requires to have at least two workers on every boat.
All these point a finger to the lack of safety measures in and around areas where tourists, including children, flock in large numbers. This should be an eye-opener to the authorities concerned to ensure complete safety to people and to the people to follow the rules put forward by authorities seriously.
That was a disaster waiting to happen. The boat accident that occurred at Thattekkad in the Bhoothathankettu reservoir was shocking. The people of the State have no words to console the heartbroken parents. Reports indicate that the boat was overcrowded, as the expected capacity of the boat was only 15. The time of accident also specifies that it was well past sight-seeing hours. It is to be presumed that the boat crew failed to ensure the safety of the people.
In this context, the State Assembly should enact laws to help prevent such disasters from recurring. The grief-stricken parents should be consoled and compensated for their irretrievable loss. The compensation of Rs.2 lakh, though inadequate, should be paid to the families of ill-fated ones immediately. Judicial probe or such gimmicks would not ease their agony.
To avoid recurrence of such tragedies in future boating in all reservoirs in the State should be banned. The Government must bring in strict passenger limits and weed out corruption. The main lesson to be learned is that rules should be respected and rulers should ensure that they are properly enforced by first educating the people and secondly by not permitting breach of the law.
K.A. Solaman Kaithakkal
The first and the foremost lesson to be learned from the recent boat tragedy in Thattekkad is that, `prevention is better than cure.' Both the school authorities and the Government employees are equally responsible. Had this tragedy not occurred, the norms and rules binding on water transportation would continue to be flouted. Negligence of the school authorities, poor maintenance of vessels, less accessibility of the spot, recklessness of the licensing authorities, all these contributed to this grievous incident.
First, the school authorities should arrange excursion trips in such a manner that only manageable number of children accompanied by elders undertakes such trips. The school should collect the full details regarding the addresses and phone numbers of the picnickers and inform the parents the schedules of such trips. The school office must not be closed until the picnickers return to the school, preferably, before dusk.
Secondly, it is important that the Department of Waterways function more responsibly. A Safety Commissioner should also be appointed, who must be capable of licensing only boats that are technically safe, simultaneously, prohibiting overloading of passengers. Strict criteria must be followed in issuing licences in future.
Thirdly, the system of rescue operations in the State must be revamped. Boat operators should provide passengers with sufficient number of life jackets. Each site of tourist attraction, especially, connected by waterways, must be well acquainted. It would be an added advantage if these emergency services set up temporary cells across the tourist sites during the peak season of tourism (December-May) in the State.
The Government must be lose no time in taking actions against the law offenders, thereby assuring its people safe journeys on the waters of Kerala.
Dereliction of duty
When study trips are arranged, it is the duty of the teachers and non-teaching staff to see that all necessary arrangements are taken, even before proceeding for the trip. Whether it is boat, bus or train, it is the duty of the teachers to ensure the safe journey of the students. It is for this that huge amounts are collected from the students.
Poor maintenance of the vehicles by tour operators is another issue. Tourists are one-time travellers and many of them will not complaint about the bad condition of the vehicles. The passengers are least bothered about license or such other documents required for the trips. Very old vessels are used for this purpose, but the tourists, including foreigners, who enjoy the beauty of nature do not bother about basic amenities.
The vehicles operators should meet the minimum safety aspects. If it is water transport, at least life saving first aid boxes and life jackets and such other safety measures should be ensured.
After any tragedy, the Government wakes up with promises of new law and strict enforcement of various rules and regulations. But soon it conveniently forgets its vows or succumb to demands from people with vested interests. Compliance with regulation should be monitored constantly.
Although there are enough laws and rules compliance with these are lacking.
The implementation mechanism in the State is totally corrupt resulting in the recurrence of such tragedies with loss of innocent lives. The higher officials of the respective departments should closely follow up on these matters with their subordinates.
There are school vans, tempo vans and autorickshaws running throughout the State filled beyond capacity. Boats are plying without safety aspects and instead of 10, actually 50 or more passengers are stuffed in it.
Private buses and contract vehicles dump children inside the carriage, overlooking the seating capacity.
Who will control this? Nobody is bothered about this, till an accident happens.
Then there will be a hue and cry raised and Ministers will announce lakhs of rupees as compensation to the victims or relatives and some restrictions on the buses will come into force. After a few days things will return to chaos again.
Necessary action should be taken against all those who were responsible for the incident, including the staff of the school.
Punish the culprits
After every tragedy the authorities are jolted awake. And then they speak about how to prevent such tragedies in future. If authorities implement the rules scrupulously it would not happen.
The shameful thing is action is being taken only against the boat driver.
As a responsible Government stringent action should be taken against all responsible for the incident.