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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Balco chimney mishap: judicial panel indicts Balco, Sepco and GDCL

Ejaz Kaiser, Hindustan Times  Raipur, December 21, 2012
First Published: 22:04 IST(21/12/2012) | Last Updated: 22:06 IST(21/12/2012)

A state-appointed judicial commission, constituted to probe into the collapse of under-construction chimney of 1200 MW plant, held accountable the Vendanta-controlled Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd (Balco), Chinese group Shandong Electric Power Construction Corporation (Sepco) and its subsidiary Gannon Dunkerley & Company Limited (GDCL), for their failures to abide by the rules on safety and quality.

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The commission also slammed the then district officials for being irresponsible and remaining apathetic.

The commission report was tabled in Chhattisgarh assembly on Friday. The chimney mishap claimed 41 lives on September 23, 2009 at Korba, about 225 km north-east of Raipur.

Bagging the chimney construction contract from Balco, the Sepco assigned the task to GDCL to erect 275-metre chimney for the power plant.

Following the incident, the state government constituted a one-man judicial commission headed by Raipur district judge Sandeep Bakshi to probe the incident.

"Prior to the construction of the chimney, the norms pertaining to the structure, quality and precautionary (safety) aspects of the project were not followed altogether," the commission said.

According to the report, the prerequisite safeguard measures were not in place as per the prescribed norms and regulations so as to ensure the safety and security of the labourers and others during the construction.

"For these Balco, Sepco and GDCL are accountable," it was pointed out. 

The report was also critical of the local officials deployed in the district then.

"The concerned officials of the municipal corporation, town and country planning department and the labour department in Korba were irresponsible and appeared callous."

The commission dwelled on six points: how and when the incident took place, what was the reasons for the incident, who were responsible for the collapse of the chimney, whether proper standardisation followed to maintain quality of works of the chimney or not, and if it were not maintained than who were responsible for that. And how to check occurrence of such incidents in future.

The opposition Congress demanded criminal cases be lodged against those held accountable by the commission.

Balco is owned by the London-based Vedanta Group, a global mining and metal company, in which the Government of India hold 49% stake. Balco is totally managed by Vedanta.

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