Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday said that one person died and two are missing after a private boat capsized following a collision with another vessel in the Brahmaputra river in Jorhat district. The incident took place around 4 pm near Nimati Ghat on Wednesday.
After visiting Jorhat, Sarma told reporters that he has asked the police to file a criminal case in connection with the accident. “By today evening, we will announce a high-level probe to find out the reasons behind the accident,” he added.
The chief minister said that as per the initial inquiry, officials found mismanagement to be the prime reason for the accident.
Sarma announced that from Thursday, plying of private ferries would be banned as they do not have a marine engine, according to ANI. He added that if owners of the ferries want to convert single engines to marine engines, the government will give them a grant of Rs 10 lakh with a 75% subsidy.
The chief minister added that the capsized boat had 90 passengers. Initially, it was reported that the boat was carrying over 100 passengers. The Assam State Disaster Management Authority said 87 passengers were rescued on Wednesday night.
The police said the two missing persons hail from Jorhat and Lakhimpur districts, adding that teams from the National Disaster Response Force and the State Disaster Response Fund are still involved in search operations.
“The divers on Thursday morning also went inside the boat, but could not find any bodies,” Jorhat Superintendent of Police Ankur Jain said. “Army divers will also search the area. Air Force will carry out an aerial survey downstream to locate the missing persons.”
The private boat had collided with the passenger ferry of the state’s Inland Water Transport department. The government-owned ferry was coming from Majuli district to Nimati Ghat, while the other boat was headed in the opposite direction.
A video of the incident showed some passengers trying to hold on to the boat as it was capsizing, while others jumped into the river.
Jorhat Medical College and Hospital Superintendent Purnima Barua said 11 passengers were admitted to the hospital and one woman died. She was identified as Parimita Das, who hailed from Guwahati and was working as a faculty at Rangachahi College in Majuli.
The Assam government has ordered departmental action against those found guilty. Three officials of the Inland Water Transport department – Executive Engineer Bikramaditya Choudhury, Assistant Executive Engineer Mukut Gogoi and Junior Engineer Ratul Tamuli – have been suspended.
The government has also directed state Transport Secretary Jadav Saikia to conduct an inquiry into the accident.