Majuli: As stunned citizens took stock of a horrific ferry accident at Majuli, Jorhat yesterday, which saw the drowning of more than 100 people after two boats collided while moving from Nimatighat to Majuli, among which 4 are reported missing, 43 have been rescued and 28 contact traced, people out-poured their anger on social media, directing their vexation against the government's failed promises and a flawed system that could have avoided the accident.
Recollecting the actions taken so far on behalf of the government in pursuance of constructing a bridge across the Brahmaputra River, two foundation stones were laid at Majuli, with one on February, 2016 and another on February 18, 2021, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed the public via video conferencing. Then Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, MoS for Ports, Shipping and Waterways and then Chief Minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal was also present on the occasion.
The launch of ‘Mahabahu-Brahmaputra’ was marked by the inauguration of the Ro-Pax vessel operations between Neamati-Majuli Island, North Guwahati-South Guwahati and Dhubri-Hatsingimari; Shilanyas of Inland Water Transport (IWT) Terminal at Jogighopa and various tourist jetties on River Brahmaputra and launch of digital solutions for Ease-of-Doing-Business. The program was aimed at providing seamless connectivity to the Eastern parts of India, including various development activities for the people living around River Brahmaputra and River Barak.
Well, it 'was'. The programme was conducted with much fun-fare but the promises are still waiting to be fulfilled in the present. The Ro-Pax vessels and one Ro-Ro boat decked with flowers, are still waiting for full navigation. The promise of a bridge which is still decorated in ornamental words on the foundation laying stone, is yet to be implemented.
With little or no efforts to look over the fitness of the boats that are plying on the Brahmaputra River, the Inland Water Transport officials have taken no proper steps to look over the maintenance of the boats that are almost in poor and rusting condition.
The world’s largest inland river island, Majuli – that encompasses a myriad plethora of flora and fauna, has been reeling under immense flood mayhem due to the rising waters of River Brahmaputra during the rainy season. The people of Assam in general must realize the glaring fact that within a span of 70 years, the land area of world’s largest river island got reduced to just 880 square kilometers. For the people of Majuli, the ferry services are the only reliable transport system they can use to cross over the other side and then after reach their destination by road.
From pregnant women to office-goers, everyone faces the same problem. They have to traverse the treacherous river, known for its lethal undercurrents. Many boats have sunk. Many lives have been lost.