Approximately 22 people died in a boat mishap in Thanoor, Malappuram district on May 7 evening. Most of the deceased are children and women. Seven people are in critical condition. Boat was capsized in Poorappuza river. It is reported that 40 people had boarded the boat while its capacity was 20 ! But, unfortunately, there is no accurate information available regarding the number of people on board when the tragedy took place. Some eyewitnesses are reported to have told that more than 50 people were on board; they assume the capacity as 25. Since boat turned upside down, some passengers were caught under the boat. As a result, still non one is able to tell a clear account of the casualties. Darkness turned an impediment in rescue operations. Tourist boats are not permitted to cruise with passengers after 6pm.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rashtrapathi Droupadi Murmu and Uparashtrapti Jagdeep Dhankar expressed the shock and condolences. Prime Minister declared Rs 2 lakhs to the kin of the victims.
Reports suggest that it was, in fact, a fishing boat and was converted into a ‘tourist boat’ and, it did not have any life jacket or other safety measures. Authorities say that the boat had all proper documents. But, people wonder how did they get such documents while the boat did not comply with all necessary safety measures. The wooden bridge to board the boat was not a proper and strong one; moreover, it was in deep waters. The angry local men set fire to the bridge. The sides of the boat were covered by glass and it was further ‘reinforced’ by iron rods. The rescue-men had a hard time to smash the glasses and break he rods to rescue the people trapped in the boat.
Bharat Navy, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Fire and Rescue Force, Sevabharathi workers, local fishermen and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) are very much active since the incident took place in rescue operations. Most of the rescued victims are in critical condition and are admitted to various hospitals in the area.
The boat “Shinkara” is owned by Nazar Pattarakath, Thanoor. Nazar is said to have gone underground. His vehicle, his brother and a neighbour have been taken into custody by Kochi Police.
Kerala Government declared Rs 10 lakhs to the kins of the victims. Government has declared one day mourning in view of the mishap. Chief minister and most of the ministers are in Thanoor to coordinate the rescue operations. Government has declared a judicial enquiry into the incident.
BJP and Opposition-led United Democratic Front (UDF) criticise the state government for negligence of duties in controlling the boat operators and in making sure that safety measures are complied with. BJP said that it was the failure of the Tourism Ministry. State president K. Surendran demanded the immediate resignation of Tourism Minister Mohammed Riaz. He said, the minister does not know how many house boats are operated in the state. His department spends crores of rupees for publicity of Kerala tourism, but there is no unified policy regarding the house boat operations. Drivers are not trained and the passengers are not briefed about the safety measures.
Boat mishaps have been an endless story since long. After every mishap there have been inquiry commissions and of course all commissions submit their respective reports. But, it appears that those bundles of papers gather dust somewhere in the respective departments. There is a ‘tragic list’ of 13 such mishaps which have taken place since 1990. In all accidents several people had died. However, major ones are Kumarakam, Kottayam (2002: Death 22), Thattekkat (2007: Death 18 including several school children), Thekkady (2009: Death 46).
People wish, at least hereafter, the safety measures will be taken care of and authorities will wield their sticks whenever necessary.
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