19 die as boat capsizes in Uttar Pradesh; angry villagers vent ire on officials
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement At least 19 people, including 13 women, have died after a boat that was carrying around 62 people capsized in the Yamuna in Katha village of Baghpat district early Thursday morning.The District Magistrate (DM) of Baghpat, Bhawani Singh said that the tragedy was caused by the overloading of the boat beyond its capacity. “The boat was ferrying passengers more than its capacity. Most of them were women,” Mr Singh said.According to the Additional Director General of Police (ADG), Meerut, Prashant Singh, while ten of the passengers swam to safety, 11 were rescued from the river and sent to nearby hospitals. The rest were still missing. People gather on the banks of river Yamuna at Katha village, where an overloaded boat capsized on Thursday. A car allegedly torched by villages of Katha village. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement According to local villagers, the victims were mostly daily wage labourers who had boarded the boat from Katha village, located 6km from the district headquarters. The passengers were either farmers who owned land on the banks of the Yamuna, or labourers headed to Sonipat in Haryana in search of work.Rohit, an eyewitness, told The Hindu that the tragedy occurred as a result of too many people pressurising Rizwan, the boatman, to ferry them in the same trip. Due to his greed, Rizwan must have agreed, he said, adding that overloading of the boat was a daily phenomenon.“The boat does not have the capacity to carry more than 25 passengers. On Thursday morning, it had left the Yamuna bank with only 25-30 passengers. But some people called the boat back as they wanted to be ferried on the same trip. Rizwan took them on board, and had gone some distance on the river, when again, another 10-12 people called him back. This happens every morning when people are in a hurry to go to their work place. But today was an ill-fated day,” Rohit said.The boatman survived the tragedy and is absconding, the police said. While the rescue operation was going on, angry villagers blocked the Delhi-Saharanpur highway by placing three dead bodies on the main road. The mob accused the administration of incompetence in handling the rescue and relief operation. Police resorted to lathi charge to disperse the mob. One officer of Deputy SP rank and one woman officer sustained serious injuries in clashes with the mob, while a women’s helpline vehicle was torched, said a release issued by the police department.When Baghpat MP and Union Minister Satyapal Singh reached the spot, he had to face the villagers’ ire. The ADG reached the spot and assured the villagers of swift action and compensation.Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced a compensation of ₹2 lakh to the kin of the deceased from the chief minister’s relief fund. The State government has ordered a magisterial probe into the accident.