Administrative officials at site in Omakershwar on Saturday
Administrative officials at site in Omakershwar on Saturday

Mortaka (Omkareshwar): A day after boat tragedy, divers fished out a body of Heena, wife of Jitendra, Verma, a resident of Sanawad, while a search for Jitendra, son of Kishorilal Verma is still on.

On Saturday, Free Press reached the spot and explored the cause of accident that claimed two lives. Local fishermen and divers, who rescued nine out of 11 people, said boat was overloaded and broke into pieces after hitting against Mortaka bridge pillar No 11 on Narmada river. Oarsman, who managed to swim away is still out of police reach. A case has been registered against him at Barwah police station in Khargone district.

Omkareshwar janpad panchayat CEO Monica Pardhi on Saturday ordered to verify licence and other registration documents of boat operators. Along with this, officials will check whether operators had enough life jackets in their boats.

Initial investigations suggest that local boatmen often ply boats in river carrying more people than its capacity, due to which such accidents have become common occurrences in Narmada river. To make money, boats are being operated here on a large scale. Whether the boats are registered is also a matter of investigation.

Sources in Omkareshwar and Mortaka, where thousands of devotees visit to take holy baths in Narmada river, said a majority of boat operators flout guidelines laid by district administration to ply boat in the river. On July 29, 2020, Khandwa district administration had given conditional permission to operate boats to boat operators after the lockdown. The administration made it clear that violation of this will result in action against boatmen.

Conditions in Omkareshwar, Mortaka

1. Boats will operate from Brahmapuri Ghat, Chakratirtha Ghat, Gaumukh Ghat, and Nagar Ghat. An oarsmen’s committee will be formed at ghats. A booking centre will be set up.

2. Oarsmen’s list to display their mobile, registration numbers.

3. 10 boats will operate from Brahmapuri Ghat, Gaumukh Ghat. 7 each from Chakratirtha Ghat, Nagar Ghat.

4. Passengers to use life jackets, sanitisers, masks during boat ride. Only registered boats will operate. Boats made of tin, other metals banned.

5. On rush days, administration may restrict operation of boats towards Sangam Ghat.

6. No boat will ply from 6 pm to 6 am.

7. Legal action against licensed boat operator under Section 188 IPC if he/she riding a boat in drunken state, sans mask, life jacket.

How much followed?

Most conditions exist on paper. Many who visited it during New Year said pilgrims felt cheated due to lack of information. Local boat operators charge Rs 11,000 for Omkar Parvat Parikrama though it is not fixed. Additional sum of Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 for 15 minutes is charged for ride at Bramhapuri Ghat. Whenever district administration takes action, the women of oarsmen, boatmen’s families raise ruckus and say this is their only means of livelihood, which shouldn’t be deprived.

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