Deoghar Ropeway accident explained: What was the maintenance protocol? Were rescue drills followed?

The Jharkhand state government ordered for filing of an FIR and a high-level probe into the mishap

Rescue work under progress by Indian Air Force (IAF) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) at Trikut Hill after a collision of cable cars, in Deogar district. (PTI)

The ropeway accident in Jharkhand’s Deoghar district claimed three lives, while 60 others were rescued over a 26 hours long operation conducted by the Indian Air Force with the aid of the Army, ITBP and NDRF held between April 11 and 12. The Jharkhand state government ordered for filing of an FIR and a high-level probe into the mishap. Chief Minister Hemant Soren blamed the center for not having a Central Act to regulate ropeways in the country.

An Indian Express report said that just three weeks ago, a government-backed agency conducted a safety audit of the 1,770 meter long steel rope and found its condition to be “satisfactory”. The auditors in its report flagged “24 local flaws” and asked to haul the cable cars.

When was the ropeway at the Trikut hills established and how did Kolkata-based Damodar Ropeways and Infra Limited get the contract?

Building the ropeway started in 2010. Initially, the consultancy to build the ropeway was with RITES, a Government of India enterprise under the aegis of Indian Railways. DRIL later gained the contract through a tendering process, and the Jharkhand Tourism Director Rahul Sinha informed the Indian Express. Since then DRIL designed, built, operated, and maintained the ropeway and paid an annual license fee to the Jharkhand government.

Nature of the agreement with DRIL

The Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC) and DRIL entered an agreement for maintenance of the ropeway system, that came into force on May 16, 2014. The contract was a period of five years to be extendable upto three times.  The agreement ensured the functionality of the ropeway at all times with the highest standard of safety and efficiency.

DRIL ropeway maintenance protocol

The contract says that DRIL should conduct a daily check on the safe functionality of the ropeway besides its annual, quarterly, and half-yearly maintenance. Periodic rescue drills were mandated every three months.

Mahesh Mahota, general manager (commercial) at DRIL claimed that the drill was conducted as per mandate but, according to reports, some employees of DRIL have, however, alleged that maintenance trolleys were rarely used, and rescue rehearsals were not carried out.

What led to the Deoghar ropeway accident on April 11

Preliminary investigation suggests that the steel rope of 16 mm diameter slipped from the shaft/axle leading to the slipping of the ropeway from all its pulleys. As a result, all cars got stuck mid-air. More details will be known after the complete inquiry.

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