9 Killed, 14 Injured in SAIL’s Bhilai Plant Explosion: The list of Martyrs of India’s Industries keeps on getting longer
9 workers have been killed and another 14 are undergoing treatment for fatal injuries in an explosion at the Bhilai steel plant of the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL). The explosion took place in a gas pipeline connected to the coke oven section of the plant. Around 24 people were working in the area when the explosion took place.
It needs to be mentioned here that this is the second industrial accident in the Bhilai plant in a span of about 4 years. In an accident in June 2014, six lives were lost when the main header of Pump House No.2 which supplies water to the Gas Cleaning Plants (GCP) of Blast Furnaces suddenly ruptured.
Bhilai Steel plant is one of the best steel plants of the country and specializes in construction of rails for the Indian railways, apart from a variety of wide and heavy steel plates and structural steel. Bhilai Steel Plant and its workers have had a phenomenal role in setting up the infrastructure that ensured the industrialization in the post-independence India.
They are the bedrock upon which the private capital could grow in this country. Series of accidents in such public sector industrial units is obviously a reflection of the lack of seriousness towards the safety norms and at the larger level is linked to the ploy of dismantling such units altogether so as to pave way for the private players.
Let us have a look at some of the major industrial accidents in the public sector units in the last few years:
Explosion at 500 MW boiler unit of NTPC Unchahar Unit: Blast at NTPC At least eight people were killed and more than 100 injured in an explosion at a boiler unit of the NTPC in Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli.
Korba chimney collapse, 2009 (Official death toll: 45) : Forty-five people were killed when a chimney under construction at a power plant being built at the Bharat Aluminium Company (Balco) in Korba, 230 km from Chhattisgarh’s Raipur.
The structure had reached a height of 240 metres when it collapsed on top of more than 100 workers. They had taken shelter from a thunderstorm when the accident happened.
Jaipur oil depot fire, 2009 (Official death toll: 12): A major fire engulfed an Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) depot in Jaipur, killing 12 people and injuring at least 130. The fire began in a tank holding 8,000 kilolitres oil. The government newsletter says the blaze continued for more than a week. About half a million people were evacuated from the area after the accident. The accident took place when petrol was being transferred from the IOC’s depot to a pipeline.
These figures are just the tip of the iceberg. Even by the moderated official data, the industrial accidents in India have escalated phenomenally in the last few years. The real area of concern is obviously the factories and units run by private capital, which tend to overlook the safety of the workers. The labour department and police acts in connivance at most of the places and the blatant violation of laws being discovered only when few workers lose their lives.
As per the official data 1,660 people in the country have lost lives in factory or machine-related accidents in India between 2013 and 2016. The data also reveals that 4,045 people have received fatal injuries in Indian factories during this period. Despite several laws governing the safety of factory workers such as the Factories Act 1948, Disaster Management Act 2005 and Petroleum Act 1934, Explosives Act 1884, their implementation has always been a problem.
This situation can’t be reversed until the state remains in control of those for whom the workers and the worker’s lives has no importance.