Monday, June 17, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

69 lives lost crossing only 500 metres

No one sued yet over trawler capsize in Karatoya river

Update : 01 Oct 2022, 06:14 PM

“It drizzled that day (September 25) from dawn till 9:30am. So the devotees could not leave for the Bodeshwari Temple to perform the Mahalaya rituals of Durga Puja on time. They started gathering at Auliar Ghat at around 10am. But there were not enough boats, so the pilgrims could not cross the Karatoya River, which had some current that day. The Bodeshwari Temple is just across the river after crossing the waterway for 500 meters. Since Mahalaya's prayer time was also passing, the devotees waiting at the ghat were growing impatient.

“It was almost half past two in the afternoon. As soon as a big engine-powered boat arrived at Auliar Ghat on the west bank, many women and children boarded it together. With more than twice the capacity of passengers, the trawler set sail at great risk. The distance is around 500 metres, and it takes two to three minutes to cross. But the boat sank in the middle of the river with passengers,” said Nitish Kumar Bakshi, president of the Bodeshwari Temple Management Committee under Barashashi union. 

Assistant Secretary Gauranga Roy echoed Nitish’s remarks while talking to this correspondent, narrating the context of the tragic incident on September 25. 

So far 69 bodies have been recovered from the river. The passengers were from different areas of Mareya union under Boda upazila of Panchagarh. 

Gaurang Roy, a former member of Ward No 2 of Barashashi union, said: "The distance from Auliar Ghat to Barashashi Ghat on the east is hardly 400 to 500 metres. Too many people have died while crossing the waterway.”

"That day I was the first to take a bath in the river. Later, when I asked the boatman and his assistant about the rest of the boats, they told me they had managed to bring five boats [to ferry passengers to and from the temple] and all boats would arrive on time. But in the end there were only two boats.”

Mahbub Alam Pradhan, a former member of Mareya union parishad, said: "The incident took place in front of my house. I am 60, and I had never before heard of any such boat capsize incidents at the ghat, or in the river. My father and uncles never told me about such an incident.”

No one is taking responsibility

Panchagarh Zilla Parishad leases the Auliar Ghat. Abdul Jabbar, a resident of Kumar Para, is its lessee. He has been on the run since the incident.

Even though Jabbar took the ghat on a lease, Barashashi union Ward No 2 Member Tara Mia and some others managed it. Tara Mia became “sick”, and his family members took him to the hospital in an ambulance immediately after the boat sank. He returned home on Friday, five days after the incident. This correspondent could not reach him for comment.

Meanwhile, the Zilla Parishad authorities are not willing to take any responsibility for the incident. 

Acting chief executive officer Muhammad Saniul Quader said: "Even though the Zilla Parishad leased the ghat, the local administration looks after the issues of supervising boats and passenger movement.

"If we find negligence of the lessee through an investigation, action will be taken against him according to the rules.”

Nitish Kumar of the temple management committee said: "The Mahalaya preparation committee members held a meeting with the local administration and the police and requested them to arrange for smooth movement of the devotees. 

“We were reassured by the presence of police and Fire Service personnel at the ghat on that day (September 25)… they could have avoided this incident by not allowing so many people to get on the boat and by preventing the boatman from leaving the ghat in that condition.”

He said the temple committee had arranged for a bath for around 20,000-25,000 devotees on the river bank and the temple premises that day by demarcating the place with bamboo. All the devotees, including women and children, took a holy bath there without incident. 

“We did not focus on ferrying devotees by boats as the administration and the lessee had taken over the responsibility. Still our committee members repeatedly went to the ghat to request the lessee to increase the number of vessels, but they did not take heed of our request.”

Probe report

The committee formed by the district administration to probe into the accident had started its investigation with a three-day time limit, but the deadline was extended by another three days.

Probe body chief Additional District Magistrate Dipankar Roy said he would submit the report to the deputy commissioner on Sunday.

"I do not want to comment on the findings now. But on analyzing footage of the incident, it appears that the boat was carrying more passengers than it had the capacity to. We will mention the rest of the issues in the report.”

No one sued yet

A total of 69 people – 30 women, 21 children and 18 men – died in the incident, with at least three people still missing as of Saturday afternoon.

But despite the loss of so many lives, no case has been filed against anyone. 

Boda police had filed an unnatural death case over the incident, as they did in any accident case, said Officer-in-Charge Sujoy Kumar Roy.

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