The Sunday’s boat tragedy in Godavari river at Kachaluru of Devipatnam mandal in East Godavari district has shaken both the Telugu states.
The Andhra Pradesh government headed by chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy has, no doubt, quickly got into action to take up rescue operations by pressing into service Navy chopper, national and state disaster response forces, tourism boats and other machinery.
So far so good. But the government machinery has failed to disseminate proper information with regard to the actual number of people travelling in the ill-fated boat, how many people were rescued and how many died.
Till late in the evening on Sunday, there was complete chaos in providing proper information to the media. Added to this, the ministers in Jagan’s cabinet were giving different figures to different media channels.
Tourism minister Avanti Srinivas said on Sunday that there were 61 passengers on board. On Monday morning, he changed the figure to 73. Another minister Alla Nani said there were 70 people on the board.
The officials told some channels that 11 dead bodies were recovered and some other channels reported that 12 bodies were recovered and 38 were still missing.
At the end of the day, an official release from the chief minister’s office says only eight bodies were recovered. It says there were only 60 people on the board.
Even with regard to number of people who survived, there was confusion.
While the official note says 27 people were rescued, the minister said on Monday morning that only 26 were rescued. So, what happened to another person who was rescued?
The East Godavari district collector and superintendent of police were not available to the media for quite long time and the channels, particularly the national media, had to wait for the official info.
There was no centralized mechanism to disseminate information to the media and the common people.
While the media persons were getting calls from the families of victims stating that their family members went on a boat ride in Godavari and were not responding to the phone calls, there was none to pass on the info from the publicity wing of the state government.
There should be one-point information source for all the media and the ministers are not supposed to give whatever figure that comes to their notice.
Secondly, the exact number of passengers would be known if the boat operator is taken into custody and his ticket sales are verified. By that figure, it would be known how many dead bodies were recovered, how many were saved and how many are still missing.
The inexperience of the ministers was clearly evident with the Godavari boat tragedy.
The CM’s publicity wing should be more alert in sending the right information to the media from time to time, rather than confining to sending pictures of Jagan’s aerial visit.