Sangli: The family members of some of those killed in the boat tragedy in Sangli district have blamed the local administration’s “apathy and negligence” for the incident.
They feel if the district administration had arranged boats to rescue them earlier when the area started getting flooded, the mishap could have been averted.
At least 17 people drowned when an overcrowded boat capsized during a rescue operation near flood-hit Brahmanal village in Sangli on August 8. Sagar Vader, a Brahmanal resident whose mother Kasturi Vader died in the mishap, blamed the local administration for sending boats late to rescue people in the inundated village.
A picture of Kasturi Vader with a two-month-old child in one of her arms, both lying dead at a flood-hit spot, later went viral on WhatsApp following which her family members got to know about her demise, he said.
“We could not even catch a last glimpse of her before the cremation as we could not reach the place where her body was found. The body was later claimed by our relative residing in Shalininagar and we asked him to perform her last rites there itself,” the teary-eyed son said.
The village had a small boat which transported hundreds of flood-affected people to safer places before it capsized on August 8, he noted. On August 9, a team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) came and boats were sent to rescue the stranded people, he said.
“If they could send three boats to rescue people a day after that incident, why they did not do so a day earlier, when it was actually required. This shows the local administration’s negligence and apathy," Sagar Vader said.
Following heavy rains, there was flood-like situation in the area since August 6 and locals were trying to call the tehsildar, but not did any appropriate response, he claimed.
“If they could have understood the gravity of the situation and sent boats earlier, then the tragedy could have been averted,” the 32-year-old distraught villager said.
Recalling the tragedy, he said when the boat capsized and people fell into the waters, his mother caught hold of a two-month-old son of a neighbour, who was also on the boat, in an attempt to save him.
Sagar’s grandmother, who was also on the boat but survived, said, “I asked Kasturi to start swimming, but she could not as she was holding the infant in one hand.”
Kasturi’s husband Balaso Vader said they got Rs4 lakh out of the Rs5 lakh compensation for each of the deceased announced by the government. “People from across the state are coming to help the flood-affected people, but as of now no government official has visited us,” he said.
The family members of villagers Nanda Gadade and her nine-year-old son Saurabh, both of whom drowned after the boat capsized, also blamed the local administration for negligence.
“The talathi (revenue official) earlier informed us that Brahmanal did not fall in the flood zone. But as the water level in the area rose up, the tehsildar said it was in ‘red zone’,” Nanda Gadade’s nephew Gajanan Gadade said.
“If the village was in the ‘red zone’, then why they did not send boats earlier to rescue people?” he asked.
He said seven members of the Gadade family were in the ill-fated boat when it capsized. While two of them drowned, the five others swam to safety because of the prompt help and alertness of one them, Sanika (14), Saurabh’s elder sister.
“Sanika threw the oar towards those who were drowning and four of them managed to climb back on the boat with its help,” he said.
“I claimed the body of my aunt and cousin,” an emotionally choked Gajanan said, regretting that they could not swim to safety.
“All our family members know how to swim. We used to practice in the Krishna river. But only Saurabh was not taught swimming as the number of crocodiles increased in the river in the last few years,” he said.