The Himachal Pradesh high court on Monday expressed its dissatisfaction with the status report filed by the government over a tragedy in the Beas river, in which 24 students of Hyderabad-based VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute were swept away after the water was released from Larji dam on June 8.
The high court directed the divisional commissioner Mandi to complete inquiry before June 19. The court directed the government to file fresh status report, in accordance with its earlier orders.
Taking cognisance of the news report, the Himachal Pradesh high court had taken a suo motu notice of the incident at Thalaut in Mandi and had asked the state government to file a status report within seven days.
The division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan passed these orders. In Its status report, the government admitted that the sudden increase of the water from the Larji barrage was responsible for the incident.
“The cause of incident appears to be sudden increased discharge of water from Larji barrage,” said the status report. It told that the water level at Largi barrage was at full reservoir level (969.50 metres) even prior to the opening of spill way gates. At 18.15 hrs on June 8, the operating staff at Larji barrage opened radial gate no. 5 to 50 cm, thereby, releasing 50 cumecs of water.
The spill way gates were subsequently further opened to 1.50 metres and then to 2.50 metres, increasing the water spillage from 50 cumecs to 150 cumecs and above.
This apparently resulted in substantial increase in water flow, which led to washing away of students. The government maintained that exact cause would be known from the enquiry ordered into the incident. In the report, the chief secretary P Mitra apprised court of various steps taken for relief and rescue operations. The government told the court that the relief and rescue measures were started soon after the incident as sub divisional magistrate, additional district magistrate, additional superintendent of police and deputy superintendent of police, reached the site and police, home guard, fire department personnel searched along the river Beas with the help of search lights.
The teams of NDRF, ITBP, SSB and ar my, 2 reserves of 3rd Indian Reserve Battalion, 44 divers from army, BBMB and navy, local rafters are involved in search operations.
The government apprised the court that Mandi deputy commissioner, who had visited the site of the accident has reported that no warning system whatsoever was found installed at the site and there were no notice boards car rying message of war ning. However, war ning notice boards have been installed subsequently.
The court observed that the status report did disclose steps taken by the respondents to trace out the bodies and has also tried to explain the cause of accident, but it leads nowhere. The court said that it was not satisfied with the status report. The court on Monday also directed the divisional commisioner, Mandi, to remain present in the court on June 19.
Day after the incident, the government had ordered a highlevel inquiry and entrusted the divisional Commissioner Mandi Onkar Sharma to file his report within 15 days. It also impleaded the engineering college as respondent in the case.
Further, the court directed managing director, HP State Electricity Board Limited, superintending engineer (generation) Larji power house at Bhuntar and the resident engineer Largi Power Hosue Division Thalout to remain present in court on June 19 and to file a detailed report as to how they were manning the barrage dam and what was the mechanism and plan which they were following before discharge of water. The court posted the matter for June 19.