Makeover for country boats
Guwahati, Oct. 29: The country boats (bhut-bhutis) in the Northeast will soon be given a makeover in order to improve connectivity and transport facilities.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India has shown interest in providing assistance for the mechanisation and upgrade of country boats in the region to help in the overall development of inland water transport mode of communication.
Sources said a scheme to provide 50 per cent assistance for the mechanisation and upgrade of country boats is being prepared.
A presentation was made before the North Eastern Council in this regard.
The owner of the boats will provide 50 per cent and the government will provide 50 per cent by the owner of the country boats. The Centre will provide Dispur’s share.
There was no scheme earlier for the unorganised sector.
The country boat is the principal means of unorganised transport for cargo and passengers.
Country boats are generally driven by an agricultural pump engine that is attached to a direct shaft and propeller, while launches have wooden hulls and are fitted with a truck engine and gearbox.
There is a dense network of mechanised country boats in lower Assam, particularly in Dhubri, Goalpara, Guwahati, Jorhat, and Tezpur, where they are used to transport crops, vegetables, dairy products and livestock to the towns and cities from the agricultural riverine islands.
Similar operations exist in the Dibrugarh-Sadiya-Saikhowa triangle, where various tributaries of the Brahmaputra meet.
A senior waterways official said it would improve the efficiency of the small vessels and thereby increase employment opportunities and efficiency of inland water transport sector as a whole.
“It will also help in poverty alleviation and improve connectivity,” the official said.
In the Northeast, that a lot of transportation (both passengers and cargo) takes place through small country craft with a capacity of 40 to 50 tonnes.
The mechanisation of these small vessels and fitting of appropriate safety devices/appliances on board will improve the productivity of these vessels, bring down transportation costs, improve overall transportation efficiency and make inland water transport operations safer.
There have been a number of mishaps on these country boats during the floods in Assam.
A study on inland water transport development in the Northeast carried out by IWAI on the annual movement of passengers and cargo on National Waterway 2 has estimated that nearly 30 million people use the organised sector and 20 million use the unorganised sector.
“This mode of transport is essential to small or remote locations for the transport of agricultural and commercial products to and from regional markets and growth centres, especially during the monsoon and floods. The upgrade of country boats will serve a big purpose,” the official said.