The death toll in Wednesday’s boiler explosion at NTPC’s Unchahar thermal power plant in Rae Bareli rose to 29 and injured more than 100 in one of the country’s worst industrial accidents ever. Now, the power engineers are demanding that the safety factor in the plants should not be compromised at any cost in the rush for running or commissioning the units. The blast occurred in the boiler area of a recently commissioned 500 MW unit. The equipment for the plant was supplied by state-run Bharat Heavy Electricals (Bhel). Expressing deep concern over the blast, the All India Power Engineers’ Federation demanded a high-level independent inquiry into the matter and said a way must be found to avoid and eliminate the “recurrence” of such incidents in future in view of the fact that a large number of these boilers are operational across the length and breadth of the country. AIPEF chairman Shailendra Dubey said a memorandum would be submitted to power minister RK Singh soon in this respect, demanding strict adherence of safety measures in running the power plants.
“There are various factors which need critical introspection to avoid recurrence of such incidents in future,” he said. Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has served a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government and sought a detailed report within six weeks. The commission observed that a high-level probe was required to ascertain negligence and errors, if any, behind the incident so that such tragedies did not recur in future. NTPC officials, too, conceded that the accident occurred due to clinker formation. Speaking to mediapersons, Ravindra Singh Rathi, regional executive director, said it is a very uncommon incident.He said while 29 people had died so far, 43 injured have been shifted to Lucknow for treatment, while 9 are being treated in Rae Bareilly. Five others have been shifted to Delhi.
Meanwhile, the state government has ordered a two-member technical team to conduct a magisterial inquiry to determine within seven days the cause of the blast in the Unchahar plant. The NTPC, too, has set up a three- member export committee under executive director SK Roy to conduct an enquiry and investigate the reasons for the accident. While the state government offered a cash compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the severely injured and Rs 25,000 to those who sustained minor injuries, NTPC also announced a compensation of Rs 20 lakh for the kin of the deceased, Rs 10 lakh for the seriously injured and Rs 2 lakh to those with minor injuries. This amount is in addition to the compensation provided under the workmen compensation rules, Rathi said. In addition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also approved an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of the deceased, the PMO said on Twitter.