The radiation from Cobalt-60 — that claimed one life and sent eight others fending for survival in hospitals — came from a dusty, locked storeroom in the Chemistry Department of the Delhi University.
To trace back it to the lab however was a tall ask. All that the police had were a few pictures and the accounts of a bunch of naive scrap dealers.
Earlier this month, the ‘orphan’ radioactive material was found strewn across the Mayapuri scrap market in West Delhi.
On April 26, West Delhi police received a report along with photographs of different materials found at the ‘hot zones’ in Mayapuri from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
“One of the pictures showed a circular disk with holes in it. The Cobalt-60 is placed in these holes. We showed this picture to the scrap dealers including Giriraj Gupta,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) Sharad Aggarwal.
Gupta’s shops were among the AERB’s ‘hot zones’.
Gupta said a heap of lead from scrap dealer Haracharan Singh Bhola who, when probed, said he’d bough the scrap from DU’s chemistry dept lab.
The university authorities later confirmed that a machine — Gama Cell, used to test the reaction of Gamma rays on various chemicals — had indeed been sold to Bhola.
The machine was bought from a Canadian company in 1970 but was lying unused since 1985.
How did it end up in Mayapuri?
Bhola sold the lead from the Gama Cell to Gupta. Gupta broke open the lead boxes and sold a part of it to Deepak Jain as well.
The police are now investigating how an auction of such hazardous material was sanctioned by the department.