The Lt.Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands,Lt. Gen (Retd) AK Singh, has proposed a slew of security and safety guidelines in the wake of a recent boat capsize tragedy that claimed 21 lives off Port Blair.
Interacting recently with media on the sidelines of a naval exercise called 'Milan 2014' in Port Blair Lt. Gen (Retd) Singh accepted that boat safety rules were slightly shaky and needed a serious review to prevent a repeat of such tragedies. He said the government is now regulating all sea activities and sea sports and bringing them under a stern check. "In some cases the rules were not framed properly or they were slightly loose, so that is being tightened up. All boats are being subjected to a very deliberate and very, very minute safety audit. That will ensure that not only is the boat absolutely sea worthy as per the regulations, but will also ensure that the crew is trained and that there are adequate safety equipment," said Lt Gen (Retd) AK Singh.
An overcrowded boat with approximately 40 people, mainly national tourists, sank in the sea off Port Blair in the Bay of Bengal on January 26.
Lt Gen (Retd) Singh said they were considering introducing a pre-paid concept for travelling in boats to avoid such mishaps and keep a check on the number of people being carried by each boat. The government is also in the process of creating enforcement agency, which would be a joint effort by the police and the tourism department. Lt Gen Singh also said the islands were faced with many other issues such as lack of educational institutions and better healthcare centres. "There are huge challenges that we face. There are challenges of connectivity, there are challenges of communication, there are challenges of resources. Almost 85 to 90 percent of our resources have to be imported from the mainland. There are challenges of providing opportunities to the local people, and specially the youth. Unemployment is an issue and the government is the largest service provider here," said Lt Gen Singh.
Addressing the issue of higher education, Lt Gen Singh said the administration was planning to open medical colleges in the islands that would accommodate large number of native students. "It's my endeavour to ensure all these things which should be here come sooner than later. Therefore, we have started the processes and I am hopeful that within a year or two, we should be able to not only create a university and additional college but also hope to start a medical college here by 2015," he said.
The main aim of the event is to boaster "friendship across the sea" with all kneeboard counties and islands. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a popular tourist destination for many Indians.