The boat, that sank in the Brahmaputra at Nematighat in the Jorhat district of eastern Assam on Wednesday afternoon, was carrying 90 passengers -- out of which two are still missing and one died.
Briefing the media at Nematighat on Thursday, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, however, said that since tickets are not issued and no record of passengers is maintained the figure could change.
He said the Inland Water Transport department has already suspended three officials and an inquiry is on to ascertain all facts about the mishap that occurred after two passenger boats collided.
Sarma odered filing of a criminal case and banned all single-engine private boats from plying to Majuli with immediate effect. He also announced that the construction of a proposed bridge between Jorhat and Majuli will start from November 2021 and will be completed in four years.
A double-engine boat 'Tipkai', which was coming from the river island of Majuli to Nematighat, had collided with the smaller single-engine boat, ''Ma Kamala', which was about to leave for Majuli resulting in its capsize.
Sarma said the single-engine boats would not ply between Majuli and Nematighat from Thursday. "The marine engines cost Rs 10 lakh each. The government will offer a subsidy of 70 per cent while the rest will be loan for the single-engine boats to convert, and until then they cannot ply", he said adding two larger boats would arrive from Guwahati on Friday, which will take the number to six. Currently, 10 private boats operate between the two points.
He also informed that work on the bridge between Majuli and Nematighat would begin from November. "I have been informed by the company that it would take four years to complete the bridge," he said. "In the meantime, we will make arrangements for regular dredging of the channel," he said.
Sarma also offered all assistance to the family of deceased Paramita Das, a lecturer at Rongasahi College in Majuli. " As per norms, the government will pay Rs five lakh, but if the family needs any other help it will be provided," he said.
According to a survivor, it helped since there was no car on the boat. "Had cars been there our exit would have been blocked", she said. " We managed to jump overboard," she said. There were several two-wheelers though, but those did not pose any problem.
The boat was located about two kilometers away. " It was overturned and had to be cut open to look for passengers, but only a few articles like bags and helmets were found," Sarma said.
The wreckage of the boat, which was found overturned around 1.5 km downstream of the mighty Brahmaputra, was cut open from the base by NDRF and SDRF divers, but no body was found inside it, Jorhat Deputy Commissioner Ashok Barman said.
As 'Ma Kamala' was run by private parties, they did not have any system to give tickets to passengers. So, the initial estimate of the passengers on board varied from 80 to 150 as per eyewitness accounts.