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 tragedy at Thattekkad is man-made. It is nothing short of cold-blooded murder and the most deterrent punishment should be meted out to the culprits. The Education Department should not be an idle onlooker when hundreds of small children from schools are taken out for picnics in leaky boats. There should have been some mechanism to control students and a small batch of 25-30 students could have been safer to handle.
The Forest and Water Resources Departments should have ensured the safety of the children. No check or control existed as far as the safety aspects of boats operating in such areas are concerned.
What was the panchayat doing? It is accountable to the people for not ensuring minimum safety instead of blaming others for the tragedy. Dereliction of duty on the part of the panchayat should not be overlooked as they are people's representatives with a mandate to safeguard the lives of innocent children. The responsibility of the Forest Department also cannot be brushed aside as it is the forest authorities who issue permit to the visitors.
K. P. Karunakaran Nair
It has been reported that non-observance of basic safety measures was the main reason for the ghastly boat accident in Thattekkad, which took away 18 precious lives. Ministers, politicians, officials, the media and the people of the State wake up only when such accidents occur. There are a set of rules and controls under which vessels are to be operated.
Compulsory licensing of boats, their periodical inspection and strict enforcement of rules would prevent such accidents.
Overloading should be forbidden because an overloaded vessel on the water carries high risk.
S. Paul Dhason
The Thattekkad boat tragedy has once again exposed the apathy of the Government in taking precautionary measures in advance, based on the recommendations of various inquiry commissions appointed in the past.
The rulers may offer financial assistance besides expressing grief in addition to a probe, if necessary, just to avoid the wrath of people. But they will never take positive action.
What one fails to understand is the relevance of a probe so long as the findings and suggestions of earlier commissions have not been implemented. Who is to be blamed for the non-implementation of the recommendations of previous commissions?
Had earlier recommendations been implemented, innocent lives could have been saved at Thattekkad. But for political parties and leaders all these tragedies are instruments to play a drama of sympathy just to fool the people.
Wear life jackets
Ignorance of a boat operator on the basic norms in water transport and the dereliction of duty of government officials cause fatal accidents. The accident at Thattekkad gives ample evidence of how non-observance of basic norms cost the life of the innocent. A prerequisite in water transport is life jacket. Before boarding, each passenger should be provided with one. If the passengers wear jackets and their numbers do not exceed the permitted limit, boating is safe and delightful. The incident will adversely affect tourism. The Government should invoke the existing laws pertaining to water transport, enact new ones and implement them without delay.
Failure of duty
Accidental death is now part of life. It occurs quite often and on an alarming scale. The responsibility for the safety of their ward squarely falls on the management of the school and they should be put as the number one accused in the Thattekkad boat tragedy. The accompanying teachers, boat driver, Forest Department and other departmental officers should also be booked and FIR filed in court.
The general impression hoisted by the media is that it was an act of God, downplaying it as a grievous laxity of the boat driver. Among those who died at Thattekkad, there were potential scientists, artists, leaders, chief justices and presidents. It is a veritable national loss.
A comprehensive legislation covering boating, motoring, trekking, etc., should be enacted in no time. Let the courts confiscate their properties; it will dissuade others from indulging in such heinous acts.
The boat accident at Thattekkad brings into sharp focus a characteristic of Indians in general: an indifferent attitude to safety in all our activities.
One reason why this attitude to safety continues and perhaps is gradually becoming worse is the poor enforcement of safety rules, whether it be in vehicular traffic or in industrial jobs.
To overcome this unsafe situation, safety rules have to be strictly enforced and culprits invariably brought to book. Though awareness programmes and seminars on safety are conducted and should be welcomed, unless their implementation is well monitored they will be ineffective.
A second lesson brought out by the Thattekkad tragedy is our poor preparedness to meet crisis situations.
Efficient squads well trained in saving lives should be kept in a state of readiness at strategic, geographic points with modern means of transport and operation. These groups should be continually retrained to ensure their efficiency and awareness at all times.
If the above two broad measures are sincerely taken, our safety level will greatly improve and accidents such as Thattekkad can be largely avoided or mitigated.
B.K. S. Nair
New Act needed
The ghastly boat accident in Thattekkad had sent shock waves and grief through the entire State.
Action should be taken without delay so that such accidents do not recur.
Minister for Water Resources N.K. Premachandran has announced emergency steps to ensure passenger safety.
The Government can consider bringing in a comprehensive water transport Act on the model of the Motor Vehicle Act, providing boat numbers, insurance protection and so on. It could be brought under the control of one authority.
In every place where boat service is operated there should be a squad ready for relief work in case of emergency. Timings of service should be regulated.
Schools should be issued not only strict guidelines for conducting excursions but it should also be made clear that any violation will be severely punished.
A Jacob Sahayam