R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Sept 13 - Though Assam has more than 1980 kilometres of navigable waterways, none of the engineering colleges or other technical institutions in the State offers marine engineering courses. However, on the positive side, the Assam Skill Development Mission has forwarded a Rs 10 crore proposal to the Government of India for setting up a school of maritime engineering.
According to a study, Assam has around 1983 kilometres of navigable waterways including the entire 891 kilometre length of the river Brahmaputra in the State. But unfortunately, over the years, no step was taken to introduce courses on maritime engineering in any of the technical institutions of the State. Altogether 18 institutes in the Eastern region of the country offer courses on maritime engineering, which is approved by the Director General of Shipping and none of the institutes is located in Assam.
Official sources admitted before The Assam Tribune that the issue was overlooked for years and only now, the Government has realized the potential of the sector and decided to set up a school of maritime engineering. The Union Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari, during his last visit to the State, assured that if the State Government sends a proposal for setting up of an institute of that nature to train up local youths, the Centre would extend all possible help. The Skill Development Mission has sent a proposal to the Government of India to set up the school of maritime engineering and the State Government is hoping that it would receive the green signal soon.
Initially, it was decided that the school would be set up in Majuli. But to reduce cost, now the Government is planning to utilize three unused buildings constructed for setting up of new ITIs. However, during the initial period, the State will have to bring in trainers from outside because of lack of adequate number of trained manpower in the State. As per the proposal, the intake capacity of the institute would be around a 100 students per batch and different courses including courses for steerer, technicians etc will be offered. Sources said that as the Institute is proposed to be set up under the Skill Development Mission, no engineering course would be offered and only low end courses would be offered in the institute.
Sources said that two private parties have also expressed their desire to set up such institutes in the State and discussions are on with them. But the problem is that the parties want infrastructure and land in Guwahati and the Government is of the view that they should set up such institutes in other parts of the State.
Sources also admitted that playing of engine fitted country boats in the river Brahmaputra is always a dangerous proposition. Moreover, the persons plying the boats have no formal training as there is no such institute in the State and the condition of the boats is also questionable. There have been attempts to ban such boats in different parts of the State in the past, but the efforts failed to yield the desired results due to public pressure and there have been occasions when political leaders had to succumb to public pressure. Only after the recent tragedy, plying of engine fitted country boats between Guwahati and North Guwahati has been banned, while, such boats are still plying in the Brahmaputra in other parts of the State.