GUWAHATI, Sept 11: No mechanized country boats (bhut-bhutis) will be allowed to ply on the river in the entire river system across Assam until further order. This was announced by Assam transport minister Chandra Mohan Patowary here Tuesday.
Patowary also announced all single-engine ferries should be converted to double-engine ones with reversible gears. “As per the safety norms, there must be one life jacket for each passenger in the vessel and it will be mandatory for each passenger to put on the life jacket while boarding the vessel’, Patowary said.
It will be mandatory for each passenger to put on the life jacket while boarding the vessel and deputy commissioners have been directed to conduct safety audit of the ferry vessels in their respective districts, the minister said.
“The government accords highest priority to the safety of the passengers and is taking all possible measures to provide safe, reliable and sustainable mode of transport,” Patowary told reporters after a review meeting with officials of the inland water transport (IWT) department.
The Minister also took stock of the World Bank funded project preparation and the reform measures initiated during the last one and a half year. The World Bank funded project will address the sector reforms holistically, for which ‘Inros Lackner’ – the German-based consultants have submitted the inception report and the vessel design and terminal design are being readied.
The transport department has been working on a Regulatory Bill for the last 6 months and the ‘Assam Inland Water Transport Reorganization Act’ is ready to be placed before the Assam Legislative Assembly during the forthcoming session for approval.
The Act will facilitate the setting up of a separate Regulatory Authority and separate port and shipping management companies, taking into the considerations of the recommendations of the Khosla Committee Report submitted in 2013.
The minister also directed that capacity building of IWT staff and other stakeholders must be enhanced on a war-footing. The minister routed the fact that adequate attention on fleet modernization was not given in the past for which vessels operating both under IWT and private operators turned old.
However, during the last two years, work for 15 steel vessels and 3 wooden vessels has been undertaken. As per the present status, 4 steel vessels in Barak, 1 steel and 3 wooden vessels in Majuli have already been deployed. And the remaining 10 vessels will be completed within this financial year. It may also be mentioned that 3 new vessels will be introduced between Guwahati-North Guwahati shortly.
In addition to this, there has been better coordination with Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and one Ro-Ro service has already been introduced in the Dhubri-Hatsingimari route. The second and third Ro-Ro service will be introduced between Majuli-Kamalabari and Guwahati-North Guwahati in the month of October and December respectively.
The minister reiterated the fact that the government accords highest priority to safety of the passengers and is taking all possible measures to provide safe, reliable and sustainable mode of transport.
Commissioner and secretary Ashutosh Agnihotri, IWT director Bharat Bhushan Dev Choudhury and other officials of transport department were also present in the review meeting.