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Himachal tragedy: HC junks govt’s status report

Asks state govt to be ready to give heavy relief

By: Express News Service Written by Ashwani Sharma | New Delhi | Updated: June 17, 2014 1:23 am
Sluice gates of the Larji hydel project were closed Saturday to allow a search along a 3-km stretch of the Beas.    (Lalit Kumar) Sluice gates of the Larji hydel project were closed Saturday to allow a search along a 3-km stretch of the Beas. (Source: Lalit Kumar)

The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday expressed its displeasure over the status report filed by the state government on the June 8 tragedy in which 24 students from a Hyderabad engineering college were washed away in Beas river, saying it leads “nowhere”, and sought fresh details from the authorities.

It has also asked the government to be prepared for a heavy interim compensation to the families of the victims.

The Court observed that the status report does disclose the steps taken by the respondents to trace the bodies of missing students and explain the cause of accident, but it was not satisfactory.

As per the report, the cause of mishap was a sudden increased discharge of water from Larji barrage. “The water level at Larji barrage was at full reservoir level (969.50 meters) even prior to the opening of spill way gates. At 18.15 hrs on June 8, the operating staff at Larji barrage opened Radial gate No. 5 to 50 cm, thereby releasing 50 cumecs of water. The spill way gates were subsequently further opened to 1.50 meters and then to 2.50 meters increasing water spillage from 50 cumecs to 150 cumecs and above. This apparently resulted in substantial increase in water flow, which led to washing away of students,” it read.

A division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan told Advocate General Shravan Dogra that the government should remain prepared for heavy interim compensation for the loss suffered by the families of the students.

The court a day after the tragedy took cognizance to media reports and directed the government to file a status report on the incident beside details if there was a proper warning system installed and whether standard operating procedure was followed before releasing water .

On Monday, the Bench made strong observations against the Himachal Pradesh regime and wondered why the government has taken so much time to file a “simple” status report. In a strong-worded order,the court directed the state to file a fresh status report and also asked Mandi Divisional Commissioner Onkar Sharma, heading a high-level inquiry, to submit his report by June 19.

The bench also decided to implead VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and technology, Hyderabad, as respondent so as to know if the management had taken precautions in organising the tour. The Court ordered Larji project officials to appear before it on June 19.

No warning before mishap, Says DC report

Twenty five persons, including 24 students from a private engineering college in Hyderabad, washed away in a flash flood in Beas were neither alerted about the release of water from the Larji project on June 8, nor warned against the danger while venturing into the river, Mandi Deputy Commissioner said in his report.

The report prepared by Devesh Kumar also found mention in the state government’s hurriedly compiled status report, submitted in the Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday. The report said: “No warning system whatsoever was found installed at the site.

There were no notice boards carrying message of warning etc. However, after the tragedy, warning notice boards have been installed subsequently.” The report puts a question mark on the government’s efforts to give a clean chit to the Larji project authorities. CM Virbhadra Singh had claimed warning sirens were blared before the release of the water. Some locals, however, told Union HRD minister Smriti Irani they did not hear any siren before the release of the water.

The warning sign boards, however, appeared overnight after parents of the missing students inspected the site and blamed the project authorities for complete callousness. ENS

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