The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Akhil Bharatiya Navik Sangh (ABNS) demanded on Saturday that the Mumbai Police should lodge criminal proceedings against the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC), Afcons Infrastructure Ltd (AIL) and others for the massive tragedy involving the Barge Papaa-305 in the Arabian Sea that has killed 60 persons till now.
NCP’s Minister for Minority Affairs, Nawab Malik, demanded that offences of culpable homicide not amounting to murder should be lodged against ONGC, its contractors and the barge owners, naming them as co-accused in the case.
“The barge owners, AIL, and the principal employer, ONGC, did not take the warnings of the IMD and the Maharashtra government on the cyclone (Tauktae) seriously, leading to the tragedy. Even shocking is the complete silence of Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who has just appointed a probe committee,” Malik said.
In a memorandum, the ABNS led by BJP MLA Ashish Shelar urged the Mumbai Police Commissioner to conduct a thorough probe and launch criminal proceedings against the AIL, its directors and management, the barge owners and all the others involved in the incident, which led to the huge loss of human lives and assets.
Shelar claimed that the AIL had operated the vessel – which sank late on Monday – without the approval of ONGC, Offshore Defence Advisory Group in the Arabian Sea beyond May 15, violating norms.
He further alleged that the AIL had not got any extension of the mandatory Naval Security Certificate to operate in the ONGC’s Bombay High Fields, around 175 km off Mumbai in the Arabian Sea.
“Unfortunately, despite well-defined and described warnings about the gravity of the cyclone, Afcons continued with its commercial operation, disregarding the eventuality of vulnerability of human life and assets. Afcons could have easily made arrangements to move the barge to a safer place to secure precious human lives and assets of the contractors/sub-contractors,” the ABNS said.
The ABNS contended that one of the technical marine partners was not available in the project and so AIL could not handle the prevailing situation and its “irresponsible behaviour” resulted in the barge sinking with many lives lost.
Meanwhile, the Union Petroleum Ministry has set up a three-member committee to probe the sequence of events leading to the stranding of ONGC’s and other vessels in the wake of Cyclone Tautkae, which ravaged the states on the west coast of India earlier this week.