Day after boat tragedy, CM Himanta says work for Jorhat-Majuli bridge to begin in November

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: Five years after Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari had laid the foundation, the Assam government will begin constructing a bridge over the Brahmaputra in November to connect Majuli island with Jorhat.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday made the announcement while visiting Neamatighat in Jorhat where a collision between two ferries or mechanised boats on Wednesday had left a 28-year-old woman dead. She was serving as a college lecturer in Majuli.

One of the boats that capsized and sank had 90 passengers. Eighty-seven of them managed to swim ashore or were rescued by the locals and two others are missing, Assam State Disaster Management Authority said.

Sarma said it would take four years to build the bridge. He said a Group of Ministers would be formed to review the progress of construction. Gadkari had laid the foundation ahead of the 2016 Assam elections.

The CM, who monitored the search operation for about 45 minutes from a machine boat, said a criminal case would be registered in connection with the incident.

He said three officials of the Inland Water Transport (IWT) Department were placed under suspension and the government would institute a high-level inquiry into the accident.

He announced that the plying of all private ferries would be stopped forthwith as they were not equipped with a marine engine.

“If the owners wish to convert the single-engine to marine engine, the state government would provide a grant of Rs 10 lakh with 75% subsidy,” Sarma said.

He said while four IWT ferries would provide service between Kamalabari in Majuli and Neamatighat, two more would be sent to Majuli. Two Ro-Pax ferries would also be operationalised, he said.

Sarma also visited Majuli and assured the leaders of various organisations that all necessary steps would be taken to ensure passenger safety. He said the government would fix the number of passengers per boat and ensure strict vigilance.

The Congress slammed the government over the incident stating that no provisions of safety kits like life jackets, swimming tubes were seen. The presence of rescuers was also not visible, the party said.

“Does the IWT Department have properly marked navigation routes or not? Do they have licensed boat/ferry drivers? Who is monitoring the load of ferries?” the Congress asked.