Need for safer ferry systems in the Lakshadweep

Need for safer ferry systems in the Lakshadweep 
31 May, 2013  Kochi

The Lakshadweep Administration does not appear to have imbibed the dictum that all human lives are precious and must be. This is evident from the unsafe ferry system prevalent in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep which is comprised of smaller but exotic islands.

The inhabitants of these islands are marginalized people of the lowest strata, belonging to the Scheduled Tribes.  There are special provisions in the Constitution of India, to ensure protection to the Scheduled Tribes. However, the Administration and the officials functioning under its control are not ensuring the due support to this unfortunate people.

Unlike the people living in the main land, the islanders have to depend on ‘Pablo boats’ to move around the various islands. The ‘Pablo’ boat is nothing more than a crude fishing boat with the least passenger safety. The boat does not have roof, seating arrangements or lifesaving apparatus.

On 18 May, 2013 five persons were drowned in Lakshadweep boat capsize.  The trawler was ferrying people from Amini island to Kadmat, a distance of just over a km. With no other mode of water transport available between the isles, Al Ameen and another trawler ferry people to and fro in the morning and evening every day except Fridays.

Media reported that the commuters opted for this mode of unsafe transport as there is acute shortfall of safe, bigger boats to ferry people between 11 of the 36 inhabited islands in the archipelago. Sources in the administration said that a similar accident had taken place in Kadmat about six years ago, in which a few people died.

This often ends in disasters like what happened on Saturday when a trawler carrying 29 people capsized near Kadmat island, resulting in the death of five people.

SPORTS, who organize tour packages from Agatti to the inner islands including Kadmat is not at all careful to ensure the safety of tourists, who are compelled to travel to the very unsafe Pablo Boats. Although there are public ferry arrangements and speed vessels to transport tourists from Agatti to Kadmat, its service is invariably irregular or it may shuttle only for the VVIP’s!

As at present, there is no governmental permission for the tourists to stay in Agatti island, either in Resorts or even in Home-stays. It’s this, out of dire necessity and compelling circumstances, the tourists opt to the Pablo Boat instead of returning to the mainland.

The SPORTS has also ‘tricks’, by deceptive or by fraudulent means, take the booking with public ferry and once guest reached at Agatti by air, SPORTS insists the ‘Pablo Boat’ instead. A one-way-trip to Kadmat in a Pablo Boat would cost INR.15,000 to 18,000 for the tourist;  but the cost involved the actual is minimal.

The Administrator, Union Territory of Lakshadweep, the Government of India should probe the situation in detail, the compelling circumstances, the tourists choose to the most un-safe Pablo Boats as a mode of transfer from Agatti to Kadmat, collect findings and initiate remedial measures as early as possible, to avert dangers to the tourists of Lakshadweep including Foreign Nationals.

View previous article about: Coping with danger onboard the ‘fishing vessels’ in Lakshadweep – Sampat and Soumita, recounts their horrifying experience

Wear a lifejacket on board the boat:
Boats are required by law to have enough life jackets/PFDs on board for each person on the boat. Ensure they are properly sized for the passengers on board – children should only wear properly fitted child size lifejackets. And to decrease the risk of drowning, everyone in the boat needs to be wearing the life jacket/PFD at all times. Read more:
Boating Safety
Yachting Safety

Photograph: Cruise Tourism at Kadmat Island

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