The Himachal Pradesh high court has directed the state government to file the status report on June 24 regarding the action taken on the Beas drowning tragedy report of the Mandi divisional commissioner that was on Thursday placed before the division bench here and which accused the dam officials of carelessness.
The court directed the management of the Hyderabad engineering college that had sent the ill-fated 24 students on the tour to state the purpose of the trip as informed to the parents. The Division bench comprising chief justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and justice Tarlok Chauhan also dispensed with the presence of the Mandi divisional commissioner and the chief managing director of the state electricity board on June 24, when the court may consider report of the report and interim solution offered to the grieving families.
In his 50-page report, Mandi divisional commissioner Onkar Sharma submitted that the Larji dam project authorities had not acted within time; and in Barrage Control Room, the junior engineer, sub divisional officer in charge, senior executive engineer and others on the team had not acted in consonance with the message received from the powerhouse.
The report stated that the discharge of water in the spill bays was raised from 20 cusecs at 6pm to 50 cusecs at 6.15pm within 15 minutes; and then 150 cusecs at 6.45pm (after half an hour) and 450 cusecs at 7pm (within the next 15 minutes only).
Sharma submitted that it appeared that the official on duty at Barrage Control Room failed to assess the accumulation of water and its quantity, else there was no need to discharge 300 cusecs more water. “It was not an ordinary phenomenon that the reservoir water started touching the bridge on the Beas river at Aut and entered in the houses of the people living near the barrage. It points out to the carelessness of the arbitration and maintenance division authorities,” the report stated.
WARNING SYSTEMS UNDEPENDABLE
Another glaring revelation in the report is that load shedding had been ordered in a discriminatory manner, as the Baspa project of Jaypee Hydro Power was allowed to run to full capacity and the government-run Larji and Bhawa projects were told to shed load. The report suggested that the issues of load shedding on pro-rata basis should have been looked into, and there were no standard operating procedures to release water from the barrage. Besides, the warning systems were inadequate and the hooter system “undependable”.
‘FENCE VULNERABLE POINTS ALONG RIVERS’
The report applauds the district administration for efforts in the search and salvage operation. It suggests that water discharge from reservoirs cannot be left to fitters, and all vulnerable points from Mani to Manali should be fenced, with no approach road allowed to the riverbed. The mining on the riverbed needed to be stopped, as temporary roads for mining trucks led people to venture into riverside, the report stated.
It also recommended that the operating of the beacon and hooters be restored to the district administration for quicker response. Telecom companies could alert tourists about the hazards of going near the Himalayan rivers, he submitted.