IMPHAL | Jun 9: The Chadong boat tragedy that happened on April 28 at Ramrei Eco Tourism site, wherein three picnickers lost their lives, has altered the fate of the Ramrei villagers, who had thought that the tourist site would serve them as a means of livelihood.
On April 28, 12 picnickers who were enjoying a boat ride at the tourist site on a local makeshift boat drowned in the water body when a freak storm hit the state and the boat capsized. Out of the 12, only nine survived. The dead bodies of the trio were fished out days after the incident.
The tourist site is the water reservoir of the Thoubal Multipurpose Project, construction of which led to the flooding of many surrounding villages and the villagers were displaced from their homes. Years after the construction, Ramrei villagers have been earning some income from the water reservoir, which have become a favourite tourist site of many.
However, all hopes were in vain after the April 28 tragic incident. As fallout from the tragedy, the government put a ban on the use of local makeshift boats for ferrying, and instructions were given only to use boats that were authorised by the governments. The government also instructed to carry out boating service only with authorised boats.
Despite the instructions, the government has not provided the authorised boats as of now and the villagers are suffering as they are deprived of their means of transport. The Ramrei people have been using the makeshift boats to carry firewood, vegetables, fruits, etc. from the opposite shore covered by forests.
In an interaction with IFP today, Ramrei village chief, Shimdhar Zimik told that following the ban on makeshift boats, the villagers are unable to go fishing in the water body or collect the eatables and firewood, etc. from the other side and as much as 600 villagers of around 130 households are suffering as a direct consequence of the ban. Earlier, 21 makeshift boats were used in collecting the essential items, besides earning a minimum of Rs 10,000 by a boat a day for ferrying passengers and tourists, the village chief noted while warning that the villagers may resort to agitations if they are left with nothing to eat.
Moreover, there has been a drastic decline in the number of picnickers visiting the spot. The government after banning the service has remained silent and has not taken up any positive steps towards easing the suffering of the villagers, he contended.
The government had earlier intimated that authorised boats costing around Rs 7 lakh will be provided at subsidised rates and those willing to buy the boat will have to pay at least Rs 3 lakh, which is not possible for the villagers. The villagers are not wealthy people, who can give away Rs 3 lakh easily for buying a boat, he said while urging the government to make initiatives for making the local boats safe instead.
The village chief further pointed out that after Thoubal Dam was opened recently for searching the drowned bodies, the water level in the reservoir decreases causing the land surface to become moist and damp. The area sends off a foul smell and there is fear of epidemic among the people as more than 10 children suffered from fever and diarrhoea in the month of May only, Shimdhar expressed worry and appealed to the government to conduct free medical camps in the area as well.