Sambalpur Sadar Sub-Collector Surendra Panda has issued a show cause notice to Dhankauda BDO Ashok Kumar Gartia over illegal operation of boats from Sonutikra ferry ghat along left dyke of Hirakud dam. The ghat was not put to auction last year.
Members of Lions Club of Sambalpur had boarded the ill-fated boat at the Sonutikra ghat and the mishap occurred while they were returning from the picnic site on the other side of the Hirakud dam reservoir on Sunday.
Sadar Sub-Collector Surendra Panda said ferry ghats should be auctioned every year. However, Sonutikra ghat was not auctioned for the last one year, which is a violation of Odisha Gram Panchayat Rules, 1968, and a show cause notice has been issued to Dhankauda BDO in this regard.
The Sub-Collector has asked the BDO to submit his explanation over the matter within seven days of receipt of the notice. As per reports, Sonutikra ghat is managed by Dhankauda Panchayat Samiti in Sambalpur district and an agreement is signed with the person, who qualifies the bid in the auction, regarding the rules and regulation of the ferry service.
The timing, condition of the boat and some other terms related to security of the passengers are mentioned in the agreement. However, the boats were ferrying from the ghat without taking any permission.
On Wednesday, police arrested one of the two boatmen Akshay Rana on the charges of rash navigation of the vessel and launched a manhunt to nab the owner of the boat Satyanand Pandey and another boatman Anjan Parua who are still at large.
Meanwhile, some of the passengers who managed to escape in the incident appreciated the role of both Akshay and Anjan and said they were innocent.
Eyewitnesses Soumya Ranjan Pradhan and his friends Manmath Kumar and Paban Khamari of Sakhipada area in Sambalpur town said the boat was filled to capacity and the boatmen had suggested the picnickers not to board the boat but they paid no heed. Soumya and his two friends are not the members of the Lions club, but had gone to the other side of the Hirakud reservoir and were returning to Sambalpur in the same boat. They said the boatmen jumped into the water in the middle of the reservoir to rescue the passengers and saved many lives.
Meanwhile, locals, ODRAF members and convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) Ranjan Panda have demanded release of the arrested boatman and action against the culprits based on the inquiries that have been ordered.Panda also welcomed Odisha High Court’s suo motu cognizance of the matter seeking status reports from Government departments concerned within two weeks.