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The Great Escape: How the Bhushan MD slipped away

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OST Bureau

Bhubaneswar, Nov 15:

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Everyone had said no. The engineers had asked for at least a week’s time. Bhushan Steel Limited did not have the necessary clearance for it. But blast furnace-II at the plant was still commissioned on November 12 – and only because the managing director Niraj Singhal was insistent. He brushed aside all objections and apprehensions and had his way in the end.

The newly commissioned unit functioned well on 12th and also on the morning of 13th. However, the hot slag in the plant, after coming in contact with water, led to a severe explosion. This is the real story behind the Bhushan accident. The preliminary report prepared by the state government also says that the blast occurred as a result of hot slag coming in contact with water.

Reliable sources said Singhal was present at the plant at the time the explosion occurred. Shortly after the explosion, a Bolero parked on the plant’s backside gate and Singhal boarded it to rush to Bhubaneswar from where he boarded a plane to Delhi. Though the administration is aware of the great escape, everybody is tight lipped on the matter.

The number of deaths in the accident could be much if sources are to be believed. Unconfirmed sources said bodies of the dead were thrown into furnace no. I. The job was done by the company’s rescue and operation team in no time with no one having an inkling about it.

To keep the public confused, the company admitted some of the injured to government run hospitals while admitting others to private nursing homes.

According to reports, company officials initially dilly dallied in answering queries of collector Roopa Roshan Sahu to provide a list of workers engaged at the time of explosion.  On the collector’s insistence, the company came up with a list of 120 workers engaged but could not provide information as to how many were present during the explosion and tried to cover it up by fudging figures.

Interestingly, many of those injured and being treated at different hospitals do not figure in the list provided by the company to the collector.

Reports said a majority of the men engaged were labourers supplied by labour contractor firms Shree Balaji Construction and Unique Express Private Limited. They mostly hailed from Bihar and Jamshedpur in Jharkhand.

The Labour department has sought a reply from the collector on Thursday seeking details of the workers engaged at the time of the accident. The department also sought details about the actual number of labourers engaged and whether they were enrolled with ESI and EPF. The   collector said a four-member team will probe the matter from Friday.