Kolkata: A second year engineering student went missing after he fell down in the Hooghly during a boat ride with four friends on Thursday afternoon. Rounak Saha, 19, was allegedly trying to call the boatman who had anchored the boat near a barge in the middle of the river and was chatting with some other boatmen sitting on the barge when the incident took place.
Police said Rounak did not know how to swim but neither the friends nor the boatman or any other boatmen sailing nearby jumped in the river for help. It was only after the boat had sailed back to the bank at Panihat, beside Judges Ghat, at least 10 minutes later that the friends alerted the policemen at the kiosk and then some locals jumped in the river. Till late into Thursday, separate team of officers from Disaster Management Group and Kolkata Police’s river traffic police searched the river with divers and rescue boats but his body could not be found.
Police detained the four friends – two girls and two boys, who were of the same age group as Rounak – and the boatman Md Saifuddin on charges of negligence. Police have registered a missing case on the basis of a complaint lodged by Rounak’s father, Subrata Saha. An officer said, in case boy’s body is found, the complaint would be converted into an unnatural death case by itself.
“There are discrepancies in statement by the friends and the boatman. The friends claim the boatman was not at the boat when the accident happened but the boatman has claimed the accident took place when Rounak was changing his position and lost balance. The boatman has further added that he does not know how to swim. We are interrogating all of them,” said an officer of South Port Police Station.
The officer added a bottle of beer was found with the friends and all of them were taken to SSKM hospital later in the evening for a medical check-up. A second year student of Computer Science and Engineering at Jadavpur University, Rounak and two of his classmates had planned the boat ride at Hooghly after their class test ended at 1pm. The two girls, friends of Rounak’s classmates joined them and all five of them came to the recently renovated Judges Ghat around 3pm and booked a boat from Panighat, the river bank adjacent to Judges Ghat. According to police, the accident happened around 3.30pm.
Rounak is the only son of his parents and a resident of Salt Lake’s Purbachal. His father is a Central government employee. “He is a very bright student and is extremely friendly with his classmates and seniors alike. If something bad happens with him it will be a big loss to all of us,” said Sukanto Mondal, Rounak’s classmate. At the police station in Kidderpore area, Rounak’s parents were unconsolable.
His father cried silently while his mother’s yells could be heard from inside a room in the police station. “I tried to speak with his father but he did not reply to me. I could not force him to strike a conversation. He seemed in a state of shock,” said one of the seniors of Rounak from his university, who had come to the police station.