Helmets (Y), Seatbelts (Y), Life Jackets (N)

Wednesday, 02 December 2020



Helmets (Y), Seatbelts (Y), Life Jackets (N)

Swapnil Bharali | September 10, 2018 15:51 hrs

That perilous river journey undertaken by hundreds, for work or otherwise, is one massive panga taken with the mighty Brahmaputra River on a daily basis - always ominous of a disaster waiting to happen. It has finally happened! While the big tragedy here is the loss of those “precious” lives with the number of deaths yet to be accounted for, the bigger tragedy is the sheer lack of value that we tend to assign to our own lives which are supposedly precious – leave alone the lives of others. In this country, human life indeed has no value in our eyes, not even our own.

The blame game starts right from the bhootbhooti pilot (who are often reportedly drunk on their rickety age-old boats) to the commuters on that ill-fated vessel on to the callousness of the Inland Water Transport personnel manning the ghats to check for the safety parameters that his job entailed and further on to a government that deserves a resounding slap for all its tall promises of providing safer travel modes and never delivering on them. This is another instance of the fondness of the current dispensation going overboard in its fanfare of announcements – Ola river taxis, signing MoUs, checking and passing viability tests and all – and then brazenly mourning the tragedy that has occurred purely due to its ineptitude. No, this is not fun!

When it comes to wearing helmets and fastening seatbelts for surface transport, lakhs of rupees has been raised by way of fines for non-compliance by two-wheeler riders and motorists. The police come down heavily in such cases and Guwahatians have started to comply. Where on earth is the same enforcement on the most dangerous route of the city – Guwahati to North Guwahati by river? Despite clear mandates by the government post the Dhubri boat capsize in 2012 on the same Brahmaputra River, life-jackets have never been enforced on passengers being ferried, boats have always been overloaded and basically, all caution has always been thrown to the winds by each and everyone concerned. Isn’t this a rather well-scripted invitation to the watery grave? Is the government’s role limited to only issuing mandates?

The Brahmaputra is not a joke. It is a deadly river. Let’s not ever forget that any more.

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