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Congress, Sena demand petroleum minister’s resignation over barge tragedy; NCP calls for case against ONGC officials

Terming the barge incident wherein at least 37 workers drowned in Arabian Sea a “manmade tragedy” and a failure of the Narendra Modi-led Union government to avert it, Maharashtra Congress has demanded resignation of petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan on moral grounds
By HT Correspondent, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAY 21, 2021 12:10 AM IST

Terming the barge incident wherein at least 37 workers drowned in Arabian Sea a “manmade tragedy” and a failure of the Narendra Modi-led Union government to avert it, Maharashtra Congress has demanded resignation of petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan on moral grounds.

Former chief minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan has asked as to why the 600 people on-board the barge were not brought to offshore immediately after cyclone warnings. He said the responsibility should be fixed for criminal negligence.

State Congress general secretary Sachin Sawant has demanded for Pradhan’s resignation on moral grounds. “The tragedy in which 37 people have lost their lives is manmade. More than 38 people are still missing. This is clearly a manmade tragedy as warning of cyclone was given in advance. It is the responsibility of the people who put the lives of 700 people in danger, and action should be taken against the people responsible. The moral responsibility should be taken by the minister by resigning from the post,” he said.

Sawant said it was negligence of the people at the helms of the affair due to which the tragedy took place. “Lakhs of people of lost their lives because of the mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis in the country. Similar failures have come to the fore from the irresponsible management in other ministries too. We want to ask whether the Modi government is going to learn anything from its blunders it has committed so far,” he said.

Chavan has said ignoring Coast Guard warnings has led to the tragedy. “Ignoring Coast Guard warnings has caused a huge tragedy. Why did the 3 accommodation barges hired by #ONGC with more than 600 persons on board not forced to return offshore. Responsibility must be fixed for this criminal negligence and compensation given (sic),” he tweeted on Thursday.

Shiv Sena MP from south Mumbai Arvind Sawant, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanded that he seek resignation of Pradhan and ONGC CMD. Sawant, who is also Sena’s chief spokesperson, demanded an inquiry under a retired Supreme Court or high court judge over the “callousness” of ONGC management and the ministry of petroleum and natural gas as to why they could not alert the staffers who were on duty on the barge. He also sought financial assistance for the families of the deceased and the 52 missing employees.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), too, has demanded that a culpable homicide case be registered against ONGC officials responsible for risking the lives of the 700 employees working at the barge. “There were alerts of Cyclone Tauktae from concerned authorities, but ONGC chose to overlook them and risked the lives of 700 employees. Around 37 employees lost their lives after the sea barge drowned in the cyclone and over 40 are still missing. Search and rescue operations by the Coast Guard and Indian Navy are still on. Declaring a probe by Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan in the matter is not enough. We want the responsibility of the officials concerned to be fixed. They should be suspended with immediate effect and should also be booked for culpable homicide,” said Nawab Malik, state minority affairs minister and NCP chief spokesperson.

P305 barge had gone adrift off Heena oil fields in Bombay High area. The oil fields are located around 70km southwest of Mumbai.

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