The Andhra Pradesh police made yet another arrest in the case of the boat capsizing in Krishna river that claimed the life of 21 people, after they nabbed Sesham Moda Kondala Rao.
Rao, a director of the company that owned the boat, is one among the five people booked under section 304 A (Culpable homicide) of the IPC.
The overloaded boat of a private operator carrying 45 tourists, including three crew members, capsized near Ibrahimpatnam Ferry Ghat near Vijayawada on Sunday evening.
The tourists, majority of them hailing from Ongole town, were coming from Bhavani Island to Pavitra Sangamam, or holy confluence of Krishna and Godavari rivers to witness 'Maha haarathi' ritual on the last Sunday of the auspicious month of 'Karthika'.
"The boat neither had permission nor certification. The partners claim they entered into an agreement with the tourism department. But no fitness or worthiness certificate has been obtained. There are many aspects of negligence. They deliberately overloaded the boat and did not take safety measures like providing lifejackets," Vijayawada police commissioner D Gautam Sawang told the Times of India.
Gedala Srinivas Rao, another accused working with the Tourism Department was arrested, and was dismissed from his services on Monday
The other accused, identified as Neelam Sesha Giri Rao, Vinjamuri Vijaya Saradhi,and Chitti were still at large.
Hours before his arrest, Kondal Rao spoke to a Telugu news channel. He claimed that he had done nothing wrong, and was being made a scapegoat.
"I had lost money in my business, when the others (accused) asked me to work with them. Permissions to operate the boats was overseen by them," Rao claimed.
"I told them to not to run it on Sunday as the officials asked them not to take the boat out. I don't have any idea of who took the boat on the day of the accident." he added.
While terming the incident as 'unfortunate', he said that he was extremely saddened by it.
In the wake of the incident, the state government has constituted an internal committee with Irrigation and Tourism officials to draw fresh guidelines for boating.
State Tourism Minister Bhuma Akhila Priya on Tuesday held a meeting with the boat operators' association at the Velagapudi Secretariat to discuss about safety measures that were in place.
Several lapses in operation of the boats in different locations were discussed in the meeting, besides concerns, to take down the details of the tourists before they board a boat.
Speaking to mediapersons, the Minister said, "We will involve District Collectors and other officials and form a Committee to ensure that boat operators strictly adhere to safety norms."
On the other hand, rescue operations for two more missing persons continued with the Indian Coast Guard, National Disaster Rescue Force (NDRF) and AP Fire services still at the scene.
Meanwhile, whereabouts of three crew members were still unknown, even as speculation is rife that they may have jumped out of the boat and presently be in hiding.
‚ÄúNone of the survivors were able to provide any information on the three. Rescuers, including local fishermen and staff of another water sports firm at the Sangamam, too could not give any clue. We still consider them missing,‚ÄĚ an investigating office told The Hindu.
Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for the families of the dead.
Terming the incident as unfortunate, the Chief Minister said a committee comprising of IAS and IPS officers has been formed to prevent such incidents in future.
Except for three, all the victims were from Ongole town of Prakasam district, including 32 members of the Ongole Walkers' Club.