SWTD clears chaos at boat jetties

Smooth sail: Security watchers deployed as gate checkers at work at the Ernakulam boat jetty .

Smooth sail: Security watchers deployed as gate checkers at work at the Ernakulam boat jetty .   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Normalcy restored after deployment of security watchers following withdrawal of gate checkers

After the initial chaos following the withdrawal of gate checkers at boat jetties in the district, the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) has managed to restore normalcy by deploying security watchers and spare staff.

Four security watchers deployed outside the district were deployed as gate checkers on Friday with two more joining the ranks on Saturday. Besides, the services of spare staff put on standby at jetties during duty time to replace employees on duty, if need be, was also availed of.

“Another 25 security watchers are to be recruited through the employment exchange on a six-month contract on January 25. A pool of 10 security checkers will be enough as gate checkers, and the remaining four needed to plug the gap could be deployed from this lot,” said M. Sujith, traffic superintendent, SWTD, Ernakulam region.

Though the SWTD operates boat services from 5 a.m. to 9.30 p.m, gate checkers are needed in full strength mostly during morning and evening peak hours between 8.30 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. This is likely to be addressed by the soon-to-be-recruited contract watchers who could be deployed on a 12-hour shift between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The SWTD had to withdraw the services of gate checkers deployed from its own crew strength allotted in accordance with the number of boats, following audit objection over the arrangement, resulting in engagement of daily wage workers for boat operations to make up for manpower shortage.

As many as 15 employees split into three teams of five members — a boat master, skip, driver, and two helpers — have been allotted for seamless operation of boat services on shift basis while also covering employees’ weekly off. Out of these, seven employees were deployed as gate checkers adjoining five ticket counters at Ernakulam, Willingdon Island, Fort Kochi, and Vypeen.

“We broached the subject with service organisations thoroughly foreseeing chaos over withdrawal of gate checkers. Though the idea of deploying checking staff at gates were fleetingly explored, it had to be dropped as organisations resisted it, maintaining that they could be posted aboard boats alone,” said Mr. Sujith.

Passengers after purchasing tickets had to queue up before gate checkers before proceeding in an orderly manner to board boats.

Things went smooth initially after gate checkers were withdrawn last week as passengers were unaware of the development and boarded boats in a disciplined manner. However, chaos set in after they realised that there were no gate checkers any longer, and passengers, even those without tickets, boarded boats unchecked. This led to overload and delayed services, sparking off heated exchanges between passengers and boat crew.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 6:55:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/swtd-clears-chaos-at-boat-jetties/article30597198.ece

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