Paradip: Exactly this day in 2004, 13 youngsters of an 18-member team of Utkalmani Cricket Club of Nuagarh village on the outskirt of Paradip town in Jagatsinghpur district met their watery graves after the boat they were travelling in capsized in the Mahanadi river.
The pillar constructed at the Nuagarh School ground in memory of the departed souls reminds people of that fateful day. The team were going to Pitapat village under Mahakalpara block in Kendrapara district to take part in a cricket tournament. But fate had something tragic stored for them.
The memorial not just reminds people about the mishap but also warns people who do not adopt proper safety measures while travelling in rickety boats.
“Every year on this day we remember those that died,” said a number of villagers. They still remain in our hearts.”
The crux of the matter, however, is that the tragic incident has failed to instill caution among the villagers. Still proper safety measures have not been implemented on the boats they travel on.
“The boys met their watery grave 15 years ago because neither they nor the boat had any life- saving equipment. And the situation is no better now. Just a few weeks back at the start of the year, another boat disaster at Nipania in Kendrapara claimed 10 lives,” the villagers added.
Even today people are seen crossing the Mahanadi river from Bahakud Ghat near Nuagarh flaunting all safety measures and risking their lives. It is from this jetty that the young cricketers had taken the ill-fated boat to go to their destination.
Hundreds of passengers travel on boats along with their cycles and motorcycles. “As the boats are not equipped with life jackets and lifebuoys and carry more than the permissible load limit, the possibility of any mishap cannot be ruled out,” some villagers observed.
After the boat tragedy at Nuagarh, villagers had refrained from watching cricket. They also asked youngsters in the village not to play cricket. But now those memories have probably faded into oblivion.
“We remember the mishap with a lot of pain. But that is not enough. We should take steps to prevent recurrence of such accidents,” some youths gathered at the memorial site observed.
Citing the Nipania incident in Kendrapara, they also said that the government should carry out regular inspections to see whether the boats are in proper condition and whether they have life-saving equipment.