Jalodhara to fund conversion into fully mechanised boats
The Bengal government has introduced the Jalodhara scheme to provide financial assistance to convert semi-mechanised boats to mechanised ones to avert accidents. At the same time, standard operational procedure (SOP) would be followed to improve the safety of jetties across the state.
A high- level meeting chaired by Chief Secretary Basudeb Bandyopadhyay was held in Nabanna in this connection after 13 people were killed when a jetty at Telinipara near Bhadreswar in Hooghly was washed away during high tide. Moreover, there were some incidents in the past in which people were killed when semi-mechanised boats had capsized. Senior officials of other concerned departments including Principal Secretary of the state transport department, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, were present at the meeting.
The Chief Minister had voiced her concern after the Telenipara incident and decided to introduce the Jalodhara scheme. This comes after the successful implementation of Gatidhara scheme in which around 12,500 youth were provided with financial assistance to buy commercial vehicles.
After the meeting, Bandyopadhyay at a press briefing said: "It was found that many illegal, unsafe and unregistered semi-mechanised boats are operating. Thus decision has been taken to gradually phase those out. The state government is introducing the Jalodhara scheme to provide financial assistance to bring in mechanised boats in place of semi-mechanised ones."
"Under the Jalodhara scheme, the state government will be providing a financial assistance of around 30 per cent of the total cost of bringing in the mechanised boats in place of semi-mechanised ones. The amount would be a maximum of Rs 1 lakh," he said adding that one could apply to directors of the Inland Waterways and a separate cell would be opened for the Jalodhara scheme in the transport Bhawan as was done for the Gatidhara scheme.
Registration to operate is given only for mechanised boats. Thus, it would be mandatory to replace semi-mechanised boats with a mechanised one. Converting semi-mechanised boats to mechanised ones would entail an investment of between Rs 3-5 lakh. As per estimates, around 14,000 semi-mechanised boats operate in the state.
Bandyopadhyay said that the Chief Minister had instructed to initiate a campaign on the lines of "Safe Drive, Save Life" for river safety.
On the safety of jetties, Bandyopadhyay said that a technical committee has been formed to assess both short and long-term measures needed to upgrade the jetties. The committee is comprised of officials from Public Works Department, Irrigation, Transport, Public Health Engineering and Hooghly River Bridge Corporation (HRBC).
At present, there are around 1,000 permanent approved jetties in the state. Steps have already been taken for the upgradation of 68 jetties. In addition, 131 major and 121 semi-major jetties will be revamped on an immediate and urgent basis on the SOP model.
The transport department would be funding the project to implement the SOP to ensure that block gates on jetties are set up to restrict movement of excess people, life-saving arrangements, proper illumination and other safety measures. The measures would be taken within a month.
It was found in an inspection carried out by the transport department that many temporary and illegal jetties have mushroomed close to the permanent ones.
Bandyopadhyay said: "Such unauthorised jetties will be closed down. There are some jetties which are unavoidably essential, they will be upgraded to permanent ones."