Saturday, October 03, 2009

Waiting to happen

A post after about three and half months - its not-so-happy a thing that its about a tragedy.. but yet, can't resist putting out certain unhappy truths that I faced --- thankfully for me, those did not transform into unhappy experiences, but unfortunately not for the victims of the third boat tragedy in Kerala within about seven years

Less than a month before the Sep30 tragedy, U2 and I have been on a trip there - an extended Onam vacation and much more... A few things ( which have probably been now reported in the media) was glaring during the boat trip ...

1) Right from the ticket queue, there is no guidance whatsoever of how things work ( for example you realize that one person can only take max 2 tickets, only when you reach the end of the queue ) , which boat to board, choice of upper deck/lower deck ( or may be those choices are already sold out for "black" or to those with influence)

2) Once you are in the boat too, there is nobody controlling the seating arrangement - I don't think our ticket was ever checked once in the boat, or to see if proper people are seated in the proper deck (So even if more than allotted people stay in upper deck, "nobody" knows .

3) They supposedly issue a stipulated number of tickets for each boat.. but except one time when our boat appeared overcrowded and seatless, nobody asked people to board the boats which they are supposed to ( which if you see closely on the ticket is printed somewhere on the ticket, but you don't know that its the name of the boat until you see the boat)

4) There were no instructions ( like don't crowd on one side), or what to do in case of a problem etc etc.... In fact an old man who was late to board the boat did not get a seat, and so he was seated in the driver's cabin - and alas, the fellow was non-stop lecturing about kerala politics (in Malayalam of course) ALL-THROUGH the journey to the drivers assistant and the latter listening most of the time, occasionally replying or giving him the next topic to talk about

5) And for lifejackets - i was curious to see if there were any - and they were, a few of them, stacked up nicely and tied up in the drivers cabinet...

The travellers were just focused on the joy of the ride and no hardly ever complained. At one point when at the end of the trip, there were elephants on one side ( haaaa... some "wild life" after such a long wait), people did crowd to one side and our boat "Vanajyotsna" did tilt to one side a bit , but I kind of said aloud semi-jokingly ( the other half with the intention that people notice) that the boat is tilted to one side... - ours did not reach a danger level tilt at any point.

Among the theories of the boat collapse, all ultimately lead to neglect of authorities as root cause
If it were overcrowding on one side, couldn't have been avoided by not allowing more-than-capacity and instructing people not to do that ? Also "boat design not suited for all crowding on side" When it says "60 people capacity", shouldn't it be sand-bag tested with all possibilities including this one-side possibility ? And nothing more to say about the possibility of mistake by the inexperienced driver.

I leave this post with some picture of the boat in the accident - Jalakanyaka - taken by chance while on Vanajyotsna .

The pic above shows the case elephants on one side, and people moving towards that side - and you can see the boat tilted a bit. Whether it is within limits or not, I am not an expert to comment. Notice also one fellow hanging out of the boat, quite clear that there is nobody to control



And here is another one... ( click pics to enlarge)

3 comments:

VnP said...

The fact that even you waited for a tragedy to air such obvious faults at Thekkady tells everything that is wrong about our country.

drisyadrisya said...

True, I have my share of blame. Though whistleblowers have faced hardships sometimes, that thought shouldn't have stopped me.. ideally.. yeah ideally

I wish to have one or two follow up posts ( don't know when, may be over the coming weekend)..

ONE - about the current theory that the boat had a 2.9 degree tilt even without any passengers - I probably have a photo or two where the passengers are all nicely and evenly seated, and still the boat seems to have a tilt or an "extra dip" to the right, now that I look at it carefully

TWO - We also visited the dams at Idukki - dams on the biggest reservoir in Kerala and which supplies most of Kerala's power. and atleast in one part of the dam, I felt a big lack of security (and yeah I have the photos). Such an obvious "gap" I am guessing should have been addressed and I am probably reading a bit too much into it... but you know our "governments"

Now, I am a bit confused whether to put up the details in the blog ( and give unnecessary ideas to people ) or to write a letter to some concerned authorities... Any reader comments on that would be appreciated ( esp if you have any contact details of whom to write to)

radha said...

Any time, I have gone on a boat ride in India, I heave a sigh of relief once I get back on firm land. And to get a mail id to register a complaint, send a suggestion to the tourism department is impossible. I have tried too. I went on a recent visit to Pattaya where we had to get onto a speed boat. First, they ensured that we had life jackets on. After which the group was split into smaller groups and we were made to board the boats. Then someone specifically came around and ensure we sat at specific points and asked not to move till we had to disembark.

It is time, these little ( may seem little, but might be life savers) are put in place. There should be ISO practices for these tourist rides too.