The state government has decided to provide training to boatmen who will be operating the new mechanised boats which will replace the unauthorised semi-mechanised ones under the Jalodhara Scheme.
The step has been taken to ensure safety and security of passengers. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had decided to introduce the Jalodhara Scheme to replace the semi-mechanised boats on which lakhs of people ferry every day across rivers in the state by risking their lives. Under the scheme, owners of the existing "unauthorised semi-mechanised" boats will get maximum Rs 1 lakh to replace those with "authorised mechanised boats".
The Transport department had taken up the task of implementing the scheme as per the direction of the Chief Minister following the Telenipara incident in Hooghly in which several were killed when a temporary jetty on river Hooghly had collapsed.
Either the Inland Waterways Transport Directorate (IWTD), West Bengal Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (WBTIDCL) or a body authorised by them will prepare a module of training of the boatmen. The boatmen at present operate semi-mechanised boats. So they would be going through the training programme before they get or are allowed to operate the new mechanised ones that they will get under the Jalodhara Scheme. The training will be imparted to them on operation of the new vessels. At the same time, they will also get trained on maintenance of the vessels in case of any exigency. They will also gain knowledge on safety and security of both the vessels as well as the passengers on board. Taking lessons from the previous incidents, training on first-aid has also been incorporated in the module.
The training will be of at least 10 days in which the boat operators will be going through both practical and theoretical classes. The boatmen will be provided with a "certificate of competence" with successful completion of the training programme. It has been decided to conduct the training of boatmen in batches and it will be scheduled in such a way that the training gets completed before the new boats are handed over.
Boat builders will be building and handing over "safe and secure mechanically propelled boats built on approved design" and hand them over to the beneficiaries.
The state Transport department has also decided to engage private security personnel - Jalosathi - at all the jetties for which the department has already given money to renovate the jetties following a Standard
Operating Procedures (SOP). They will be keeping a close watch whether the SOP is being followed at the jetties to avoid overloading of passengers on boats which has been identified as the root cause of accidents in the past. It may be recalled that the state government had earlier introduced Gatidhara scheme under which till date, 13,500 unemployed youth received a grant if Rs 1 lakh each and bought vehicles for commercial purposes. It helped them to earn their livelihood.
Now, the state Transport department is taking all necessary measures to ensure successful implementation of the Jalodhara Scheme.