Lion's Club president held for Odisha boat tragedy

The police in the Sambalpur district of western Odisha on Saturday arrested Ramesh Agarwal, president of the local Lion’s Club in Sambalpur town, in connection with last month’s boat tragedy in the Hirakud reservoir on River Mahanadi, the eastern state’s biggest river.

Thirty one people, including women and children, had died in the incident.

Soon after, the police had arrested the owner and two boatmen of the ill-fated motorboat that capsized due to overloading of people. During interrogation, the boatmen said some Lion’s Club members who had gone to the other side of the reservoir for a picnic had forced their way into the boat despite repeated appeals to wait for the next one. Almost all who died were Lion’s Club members and members of their family.

The state government had ordered an administrative-level inquiry into the tragedy and the local Revenue Divisional Commissioner is looking into it. The Orissa High Court and the State Human Rights Commission also intervened and sought reports from the state government.

The plying of boats and ferrying of passengers in the reservoir, which divides the two western Odisha districts of Sambalpur and Jharsuguda, have since been suspended.

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