An inadequate warning system at the Larji project, abrupt discharge of 450 cumecs of water from the barrage into the river and a disconnect between the generation engineering and barrage staff are the three main reasons for the Beas tragedy, which resulted in the death of 24 engineering students in Mandi on June 8.
Divisional Commissioner, Mandi, Onkar Sharma, who was the inquiry officer probing the death of students from Hyderabad’s VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology, blamed the Larji project authorities for the deaths, calling the incident a total systematic failure.
Sharma, who was summoned by the High Court in a PIL taken up by the court suo motu a day after the incident, said he has submitted his report to the government and a copy before a division Bench comprising Chief Justice M A Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan.
The report, he told the court through advocate general Shravan Dogra, highlights lapses in the release of the water, non-adherence to Standard Operating Procedures and an inadequate and non-functional warning system.
Dogra admitted the inquiry report indicted HPSEB Ltd and Larji project for the failures. However, he assured that the government would examine all shortcomings and come out with an action plan.
The court, however, said that at this stage, it was not interested in knowing what the government and administration had done after the tragedy. “We want to know what went wrong and who are persons or agencies responsible from the students’ deaths,” Chief Justice Mir told Dogra. The court directed the government to file a status report by June 24 on the steps taken by the authorities on the inquiry report submitted by Sharma.
In 93-page report, Sharma said the water discharge in spillbays was just 20 cumecs at 6 pm on June 8, rose to 50 cumecs at 6.15 pm and within 15 minutes, reached 150 cumecs. In next 15 minutes, 450 cumecs of water was flowing downstream, leaving no scope for the students to save themselves.