Thiruvananthapuram: Just when Kerala was coming to terms with the Thekkady boat tragedy in which 45 people died, the state witnessed another boat mishap Wednesday evening when eight students died after their vessel capsized, officials said Thursday.
The incident occurred in Areekode village in Malappuram district, about 400 km from here.
The students were returning home from school in the boat which ferried them from one bank of the river to the opposite side.
State Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran Thursday asked all the 14 district collectors in the state to immediately prepare a report on the ferry services operating in the state.
This tragedy came 35 days after the boat accident in the Thekkaday lake in which 45 tourists drowned.
Even though the state government`s police probe has led to the arrest of six people in the Thekkady case, the six are currently out on bail and no concrete action to identify the `real culprit` of the tragedy has taken place because the boat belongs to the state-owned Kerala Tourism Development Corporation.
Retired Supreme Court Justice K.T. Thomas told IANS: "We have seen many similar tragedies and quite a few judicial reports."
"The need of the hour is that the state government should immediately conduct a study by a team of navigation experts on the various forms of water transport. Once that is done, the onus would be on the state government to see that the experts` opinion is implemented in letter and spirit to ensure that accidents due to negligence do not happen," said Thomas.
A former village council president, on the condition of anonymity, told IANS that it is the cumbersome rules of the Panchayati Raj Act that prevent steps being taken especially when it comes to operating ferries.
"Technically speaking, it is the transport department and other government departments that are authorized to look into ferry service operations. But the village council does this job as a matter of its responsibility to the people. Hence utilization of funds for this becomes a problem and that is one reason why ferry service operations do not get proper attention," said the former official.