Assam Govt, Where Are the Ola River Taxis?
Ola, one of the world's largest ride-sharing companies and the government of Assam, had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during Advantage Assam held in February last, to pilot an app-based river taxi service in Guwahati. The MoU was signed in the presence of Chandra Mohan Patowary, Minister for Transport, Government of Assam.
The water taxi service was expected to offer a long distance, inter-city travel, and communication option, and also act as a safer mode of transport during the monsoons. The river taxis were supposed to be machine-operated boats, which are known to be faster and safer than the conventional ones.
But much to the disappointment of everyone concerned, the river taxi service has failed to materialize till date. Now was this another false promise, or was it a complete ruse?
Soon after the Global Investors' Summit - Advantage Assam - Ola had surveyed the navigation route on Brahmaputra River and had identified three courses - Lachit Ghat to North Guwahati, Lachit Ghat to Umananda and Lachit Ghat to Palashbari.
The Inland Water Transport (IWT) department was expected to introduce two enforcement vessels which would check violation of all water transport regulations. Even overloading, suspicious activities and law and order situation were promised to be dealt with by these two vessels.
The tragic boat accident on Brahmaputra River on Wednesday has created a public uproar. The tragedy, more than anything else, has brought to light the sheer incompetence of the government in delivering its commitments besides exposing its insensitivity towards addressing public needs.
Back in Namami Brahmaputra Festival, held during March-April 2017, the Assam Transport Minister had also promised to introduce 15 new vessels for commuting between Guwahati and North Guwahati. This was another eyewash that never saw the light of the day. And now after the accident yesterday, the minister has brazenly again promised to introduce at least 3 vessels on the river within this month.
After the boat capsize incident, the public has raised the concern that the IWT should immediately make life jackets compulsory for passengers traveling by boats or ferries. It is to be noted that there was not a single life jacket in the boat that met with the accident yesterday.
For a disaster waiting to happen, the government has proved to be the perfect blind watchdog in this instance and has exposed its ordinariness contrary to its oft-made tall claims.
Photo of Ola Taxi brought for trial in Brahmaputra