The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the authorities concerned to act within eight weeks and take appropriate steps to alleviate the grievances of ro-ro ferry commuters in the Vypeen-Fort Kochi sector, following a petition filed by an RTI activist.

The direction came after K. Govindan Nampoothiry of Mattancherry petitioned it about hundreds of commuters being affected daily due to the inordinate delay in resuming the service after the Chief Minister inaugurated it, delay in finding competent drivers and confusion over trial runs.

Mr. Nampoothiry said problems remained even after one of the two ro-ro vessels which were built by Cochin Shipyard for Corporation of Cochin resumed service, since the ferry did not operate from dawn till late night on all days, despite a huge demand from passengers and motorists. Uncertainty prevailed over when the second vessel would begin service.

The corporation, which funded the ferries, and KSINC which was operating one of them, must ensure regularity in their services, he said.

. The drivers needed more training to operate the vessels. This was because the MoU between the corporation and the KSINC was signed on April 25. The service was inaugurated on April 28 without trained crew, he said in the petition.

Official sources said that two drivers take turns in operating the ferry through the water body which has strong undercurrents. “A driver is on duty from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., while the other takes over between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. The operation time further lessens on Saturday and Sunday, when a sole driver steers the vessel between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., despite demand till late into the night. The service is disrupted if a driver takes leave.”

The sole alternative was to commute through congested city roads and travel over 15 km between the two isles. In this circumstance, at least one more driver would have to be appointed and a second vessel introduced in the sector to cater to the increasing demand, they said.

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