AICCTU has raised serious concerns regarding the National Thermal Power Corporation (Unchahar, Rae Barelli, UP)) accident that occurred in Unit No. 6 at 3.30 PM on Wednesday 1 November 2017. The safety valve in Unit No. 6 had not been working since Monday and the technicians had warned the officers about this but the senior officials remained negligent. One technician, in fact, informed the officers on the very night of the accident about the choking of the safety valve and warned the management about the danger. But the management, instead of closing the Plant and rectifying the situation, kept the Plant running. In addition, the alarm system of this Unit was also not working. Officers and technicians managed to flee just before the blast occurred; if the alarm had been working the workers would also have got the opportunity to escape and save their lives.
This Unit, with a production capacity of 500 mega watt electricity was commissioned 6 months before its construction was complete, although many works were still incomplete. For example, the insulator in the boiler was being installed at the time of the incident which should actually have been done before the commissioning of the Unit. At the time of the accident 1650 workers were working in the Unit, under various construction companies. The management remains silent on the number of workers and the construction companies have either run away or been made to run away by the management. Immediately after the incident the area has been sealed off by the PAC and police. Dead bodies have been quietly spirited away through the back gate in 5 trucks and some smaller vehicles. This gate opens on to a neighbouring village. Akhilesh Shukla, a resident of Mukhra, said that this gate is never opened but that night it was opened to let these covered vehicles go out. There are more than 300 tonnes of ashes at the incident site. When will this be removed? No attempt has been made to look for any possible bodies of workers trapped under the debris. No steps have so far been taken to get a specialist team to inspect this mound of ashes. Hundreds of workers are missing but the management is concerned only with hiding its crimes.
There is official information of 32 deaths. 70 injured workers are admitted in various hospitals. According to the people, this statistic of the dead is only of those who reached the hospital. There is no count of those who did not reach the hospital. Most of the workers were from Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and Eastern Uttar Pradesh; the number of local workers is negligible.
The construction work of this Unit had been given to BHEL, who outsourced this work to a private company who in turn outsourced it to a third company. It is even being said that the work in the incomplete Unit was started because there was pressure for inauguration by some Minister. The ADM, RaeBarelli has been appointed to enquire into the accident, who admits in unofficial conversation that he himself does not know what enquiry he will be able to do.
One reason for the accident was the presence of many stones in the coal supply. One knowledgeable person says that the accident occurred due to a tumour forming because of a stone getting stuck in the ash pipe. A high level enquiry into the incident is already going on. Among the dead workers Murari, Lavlesh, Hira Singh, Sonbhadra, Jagdish, and Vikki are from Rae Barelli. An AGM is also among the dead.
There is a possibility that hundreds of workers have died in this accident. The truth will come out only if and when there is an unbiased and detailed probe. Otherwise, hundreds of families will remain indefinitely waiting for their near and dear ones.