Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cholunga Proved Waterways the Best

Cholunga Proved Waterways the Best

By Basudev Dass

All the Jetties and wharves in the islands have been named after the name of the place but one. The lone Jetty at Port Blair was named after the vessel Steam Ship-SS Cholunga as Cholunga Jetty. Call it a vessel and the Master, sorry, the Captain of the Ship, Mr. Gomez will behave furious. She was a Ship for the Captain Mr. Gomez who claimed that she alone caused the initial development of Middle and North Andaman area, riding on which; today's Maddhyottar Andaman district is thriving. To a greater extent he was true.
'Cholunga' never missed a sailing except when on annual survey. One could correct watch timing with the movement of the vessel. From Cholunga Jetty, filling tons of Coal in its belly to generate steam, it would sail out sharp at 0700 hrs every Wednesday for Diglipur via Rangat and Mayabunder and would reach back alongside the Cholunga Jetty sharp at 1715 hrs at Port Blair on Saturday. May whatever come; the stakeholders of the vessel will never claim that she had ever ditched them on the plea of rough weather or breakdown, years after years, till it finally retired. It would carry poultry birds, cows, buffaloes, goats, construction materials including steel, cement bags along-with human beings including farmers, businessmen, peon, senior as well as junior officers of A&N Administration without a feeling of hatred and discrimination. She was a true socialist by nature and an advocate of harmony amongst men and men and men and animals.
The steam ship Cholunga took up her obligations when those Islands were just trying to stand on its feet and remained with them till it could bear the wrath of the mis-visionary people's vision at the later stage. 'The situation of the intervention of apex court would never arise had our so called Delhi based Lords governing these islands would have thought of developing the water-ways instead of the road-ways in the name of ATR', once said Late Janab FS Riazuddin in an informal chat with the writer citing the example of 'The Cholunga'. Janab Riazuddin too was a bureaucrat, but from these islands with local blood, who rose to the level of Deputy Commissioner. 'When there was nothing, the waterways alone was responsible for a slow but steady development in the region from Port Blair to Diglipur, then why the planners did not find a way to improve and modernise the existing path instead of exploring the alternative'. 'A million dollar question with lone answer - vested interest of bureaucrats-politicians-businessmen (contractors) nexus', he himself answered to his reservations. An insatiable reader by nature he had commented that there existed many island-nations where waterways was the only lifeline where  criss-crossing sea- distances of 50-100 Kms was subjected to daily routine.
"We could count the number of vessels the then Marine Department had to cater to the needs of the people of outer islands. They did not have the comforts and speed but fulfilled the needs of the commonest of commons. A farmer or a businessman was never denied of his belongings of bunches of bananas, poultry and goat or cartoons of biscuits, clothes and grains. The vessels were slow but strong enough to face the wrath of nature", said late Mahananda Biswas, a senior former Congress leader.
'The present set of vessels had comforts like speed and air-conditioning (on papers) but will not allow even personal belongings. And as far as the potency is concerned, if 200 passengers vent their air out at one go, the 'air-conditioned Tin kaa Dibbas' will cry for postponement of its voyage', sarcastically commented a passenger at Phoenix Bay jetty who failed to reach his destination since the 75-pax vessel had abandoned it voyage on a plea of bad weather.
In 1968, I was accompanying my parents from Car Nicobar to Port Blair. My father had to take a transfer since I had opted for Science stream from class 9th and Carnic school did not have the facility. We had to sail by TSS Yerewa which had anchored kilometers away from shore at Mus Jetty. A boat or a Houdi (Country boat made by Nicobarese) would pull a pontoon carrying passengers and goods along-side the vessel and the Nicobaree workers would support the transportation of the people as well as the goods to the ship through a narrow ladder hanged on the side of the ship. The sea was too rough and as a kid I was praying that the vessel should postpone the journey. But then someone took me on his shoulder and I was on the deck of the ship. Anxious to see my mother's safe arrival on the deck I could see one of the big wooden cartons fell in to the sea while being transported. I was shocked. The box belonged to us. But soon 2-3 workers jumped into the turbulent sea and lifted the box that finally reached to us on board the ship. Despite all such situations the ship did not postpone its journey and sailed right on time. My mother fell sick and I had vomited a lot during the two-day journey of the vessel that reached Port Blair in time without fail. Gone are the days when one can predict his arrival at any Port travelling on board the present fleet of ships/vessels. Construction of vessels are planned, ordered and inspected by those in the Administration as well as the Lt. Governor, who will never board such a vessel but will take a chopper or sea-plane to reach other island. No matter the built ship will reach years after the due date of completion and then; even after arrival; will initiate her maiden voyage after years and again call off its sailing with the throw of the hat on any plea. None is accountable and answerable. Things are becoming identical to Chinese goods. Use and throw and sometimes, don't even use but throw. More wastage- more orders, more orders-more commissions, more commission-more accumulation for generation after generation!
'Exchequer's money! Who cares? Live but don't let live is becoming the key mantras of many. The rest are only allowed to be proud of their past, decry over the present and be ready to have a ****ed off future' commented an Executive Engineer of APW Department in his late fifties.  

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