The absence of adequate number of vessels continues to give a harrowing time to Lakshadweep islanders as many remain stranded here for weeks not to mention the economic burden in its wake.
The latest episode was played out on Tuesday when the vessel MV Kavaratti, the biggest of the lot with capacity to accommodate around 700 passengers, was cancelled in the last minute despite tickets having already been sold out. The vessel which was withdrawn from service for a 10-day-long fitness survey was supposed to resume operation on Tuesday.
“Passengers with tickets on MV Kavaratti for Kalpeni and Androth islands were told that they would be accommodated on another vessel, MV Arabian Sea, scheduled to operate on Thursday. But then, we had to go to the counter on Wednesday and physically replace the tickets, which added to our hardship. And, not everyone was lucky enough to get tickets either,” said Hussain K.K., a resident of Androth, who had come to Kochi for a medical treatment. Passengers of MV Arabian Sea have been given the boarding time of 2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. on Thursday.
Passengers bound for Minicoy hopes for a similar alternative arrangement though that is yet to be officially declared. As per the existing schedule, MV Kavaratti is expected to operate the next service on January 28. However, officials could not be reached to verify whether it would be operated as scheduled.
Tourists among the passengers who had taken tickets on MV Kavaratti had been given a refund after they protested at the Lakshadweep Administration’s office against the cancellation of service with little notice.
“Shortage of vessels remains the biggest problem affecting transportation of islanders. In the place of seven vessels in the past, only four conduct services now, and with the unscheduled suspension of service of MV Kavaratti, the number has further dropped to three. There are many women and children among those who are stranded here for want of tickets,” said Mukhtar, another resident of Androth, who has been here for treatment and would have returned at least a week before had he managed to get a ticket.
Additional days of staying back in Kochi means additional expenses for the islanders by way of rent or hotel charges.
“Though cheap lodging is available at the Lakshadweep Administration’s guest house, not all could find accommodation there. Besides, it has to be booked online, and even that service is erratic,” said Mr. Hussain.