A TOTAL of 45 people died in the boiler explosion at NTPC Ltd’s Unchahar plant in Rae Bareli district two months ago, the power utility has said in its reply to a query filed by The Indian Express under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The last official death toll released by the company on November 3, 2017 — two days after the accident — was 32.
RTI records show that the majority of those who died — 42 out of 45 — were contract workers, including two linked to Siemens Ltd and 32 from Vijayawada-based Indwell, who were painting the boiler at the time of the accident. Those who died included three assistant general managers of NTPC: Sanjeev Kumar Sharma, Prabhat Srivastava and Mishree Ram. The other contract workers who died were from A R Singh Construction, Power Mech Projects, Amit Enterprises, R K Construction, P K Tripathi Electrical Engineering Works and Vijay Construction.
NTPC said that 40 people, all contract workers, were injured in the incident. In response to subsequent queries sent by The Indian Express, the country’s largest power utility said that its internal probe committee, which was asked to submit its report on the incident by December 3, 2017, had not submitted it till January 17, 2018. An NTPC spokesperson said the report is expected to be submitted “in the coming days”.
The NTPC’s list shows that two workers of Siemens Limited — Shesadev Sahu and Ghana Bhoey — died in the accident. However, a Siemens spokesperson told The Indian Express that “the two deceased contractor workmen were working with Precise Powertech LLP “ as “Technician” and “Helper”, respectively.
The Siemens spokesperson said: “Precise Powertech LLP was engaged for electrical balance of plant package and the workmen were assigned by them for cable termination work; Siemens has committed compensation to dependents of the two workmen along with the compensation by NTPC to the family.”
A majority of the contract workers who died (32), and were injured (24), belonged to Indwell. Six of those injured belonged to Gurgaon-based Avaids Technovators, which provides “lighting solutions to utility industry”. Indwell and Avaids Technovators did not respond to queries sent by The Indian Express.
In its RTI response, the NTPC stated: “An ex-gratia amount of Rs 20 lakh was given to the dependents of each deceased person…Further an amount of Rs 3.47 crore in respect of the deceased persons has been provisionally deposited by the NTPC, on behalf of the concerned contracting agencies, towards employees’ compensation with EC Commissioner and Additional Labour Commissioner (ALC), Lucknow.”
In response to emailed queries, the NTPC spokesperson told The Indian Express: “The said amount of Rs 3.47 crore has been deposited with EC Commissioner and ALC, Lucknow in respect of 42 deceased workers of various contracting agencies in terms of relevant provisions of the Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923…The process for release of the applicable compensation amount to the dependents of the deceased has already been initiated by Labour Authorities. On January 17, 2018, cheques with respect to eight deceased of Rae Bareli district are being distributed to concerned dependents of the deceased at Rae Bareli.”
As per section 8(1) of the Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923, “payment of compensation in respect of deceased have to be made by deposit with the (Labour) Commissioner and it is also clearly indicated that no such payment made directly by an employer shall be deemed to be a payment of compensation”.
The NTPC stated in its RTI response: “An ex-gratia amount of Rs 10 lakh is given to the persons sustaining major injuries and Rs 2 lakh to the persons sustaining minor injuries…No order regarding the quantum of employees’ compensation in respect of the injured workers of the contracting agencies have been received from the concerned EC Commissioner till date.”
Since the Unchahar incident, the NTPC has taken certain remedial measures.
According to its spokesperson, “(The) technical safety system has been reviewed by operations services group and necessary communications have been given to sites” and “an expert, who has worked as Director of Operations at Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, has been engaged as Senior Safety Adviser.”
The company is also in the process of upgrading its Disaster Management Plan. Moreover, to fix accountability, safety has been made a part of Performance Management System now. “Further actions will be taken in line with the recommendation of different committees,” the spokesperson said.