Pinak-6 owner blames it on BIWTA, ghat officials

Hours after his arrest today, Abu Bakkar Siddique, the owner of Pinak-6 that sank in the Padma on August 4, blamed the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) officials and lessees of launch ghats (terminals) for the tragedy.

Claiming himself not guilty, Siddique, 60, said it is the BIWTA that controls launch operations 10 days before and after the Eid.
The owner on Pinak-6 launch Abu Bakkar Siddique. Photo: Star
The owner on Pinak-6 launch Abu Bakkar Siddique. Photo: Star
pinak-6-owner-held_1Rapid Action Battalion members take Abu Bakkar Siddique (C), owner of Piank-6, to Rab headquarters in the capital after his arrest on Wednesday. Siddque was arrested from a house in Agrabad Housing area of Chittagong city.

“I am an owner. How can I know the number of passengers getting on my launch? I don’t stay at launch ghat…,” he said while talking to journalists at the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) headquarters in Dhaka today.

Rab produced him before journalists at a press conference at its headquarters around 1:30pm.
abu-bakkar-siddique-pinak-6The owner on Pinak-6 launch Abu Bakkar Siddique.

A joint team from Rab-7 and 11 arrested Siddique at a house in Agrabad Housing area of Chittagong city around 3:30am.

With over 200 passengers, the double-decker vessel, which was on its way to Mawa from Kawrakandi, sank in choppy waters and strong winds in Padma river around 11:00am on August 4.

During the briefing, Commander Mufti Mahmud Khan, director at Legal and Media Wing of Rab, said Siddique went into hiding soon after the capsize. “He stayed at several places in a bid to avert the arrest,” he said.
launch-capsize_3Relatives and locals gather at Mawa Ghat in Lauhajang upazila of Munshiganj after divers recover a body on Friday, five days after the fatal launch capsize in Padma.

The Rab official said there were no adequate safety and security measures in the launch, which was manufactured in 1991. Even, the master driver of the launch was driving the vessel without any licence, he added.

“Being influenced by greed, the launch owner was operating the vessel ignoring relevant rules,” he added.

With Tk 11 crore, Bakkar bought the launch around six years back from one Monirujjaman Khokon of Barisal. Since then, Bakkar’s eldest son Md Limon, 27, and nephew Ratul, 23, had been maintaining the vessel, Siddique said.

Siddique, however, claimed that Pinak-6 had all valid documents including the fitness certificate.

Holding the ghat lessees responsible for the incident, Siddique said, “We have to anchor our launches at Bangla Bazar and Kanthalbari ghats after leaving the Kawrakandi terminal. At the ghats, the lessees use to force us for taking passengers beyond the vessels’ capacity.”

“The lessees led by one Yakub Bapari use to force all launches to take about 60 to 70 extra passengers. They give us very small amount of money as fare. The lessees beat up the launch staff if they refused to take the passengers,” he said.

So far, bodies of 48 passengers of the ill-fated launch were recovered from different rivers while 62 are still missing.

After an eight-day search, the rescuers on Monday packed up and left, declaring the search operation abandoned.


Mawa launch capsize
Pinak owner blames BIWTA, Ghat Owners Association
Mozammel Hossain Sajal: Arrested ML Pinak-6 motor-launch owner Abu Bakar Siddique Kalu held the BIWTA and Mawa Launch Ghat Malik Samity for the capsize of the launch in the river Padma near Mawa in Munshiganj.

He made the claim to journalists at RAB Headquarters in Dhaka on Wednesday after his arrest in Chittagong.

Kalu was taken to the RAB Headquarters on Wednesday afternoon following his arrest by RAB from a house at Agrabad Housing Society area in the port city of Chittagong at about 3.15am on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Kalu was handed over to Louhajang Police Station custody by RAB at about 7pm on Wednesday. He is likely to be sent to court on Thursday, said Louhajang Police Station OC Tofazzal Hossain.

Arrested Abu Bakar Siddique said: “The BIWTA and Launch Ghat Malik Samity control launch ghats 10 days before and 10 days after Eid. They forcibly allow excessive passengers to get on board the launches. Though the launch owners want to restrict the number of passengers, they virtually have nothing to do in this regard. If sarengs (launch drivers) make any objection, they are often manhandled by local political leaders.”

When asked why he remained absconding, Abu Bakar Siddique said he fled away being afraid of the situation.

“I’m the owner and fled away due to weakness of my mind. But my heart broke down when I saw the accident on the television. I couldn’t tolerate it,” he said.

On the other hand, RAB’s Media and Legal Wing director Mufti Mahmud said the sunken motor-launch was not fit for plying on the river. But, the owner collected a fitness certificate out of his greed violating all the existing rules.

Asked whether steps would be taken against the BIWTA officials concerned, he said a probe commitee has been formed. “The RAB will work as per the recommendations of the probe committee,” he said.

Mufti Mahmud also said they were trying to arrest other accused.

It may be mentioned that ML Pinak-6 motor-launch sank in the river Padma at about 11am on August 4 last when it was coming from Kawrakandi of Madaripur to Mawa of Munshiganj with three times of passengers on board beyond its carrying capacity. According to the latest available statistics, 46 bodies were recovered until Monday. Of them, 28 bodies were identified, while 28 bodies could not be identified. Seventeen unidentified bodies have so far been buried. A total of 61 passengers still remain missing.

On the following day of the accident, Sub-Inspector Jahangir filed a case against six people including the launch owner Abu Bakar Siddique of Medinimondol under Louhajang upazila, launch driver Nabi and Kawrakandi Ghat operator Abdul Hye Sikder.


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