ONGC’s negligence led to barge tragedy, says Sena; asks if Oil minister would resign

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Mumbai, May 22 (PTI) The Shiv Sena on Saturday held Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) responsible for the death of several personnel of the barge that sank off the Mumbai coast when cyclone Tauktae brushed past the city earlier this week, and sought to know if Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan would resign owning the moral responsibility of the tragedy.

In an editorial in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, the party said the deaths were not caused due to a natural disaster, but it was a case of culpable homicide as ONGC did not take the cyclone warnings seriously.

Barge P-305, which housed personnel engaged in maintenance work of an offshore oil drilling platform of state-run oil and gas major ONGC, sank on Monday evening during the cyclone. The official death toll in the tragedy has reached 60.

“Warning of the cyclone was given well in advance, but the ONGC ignored it and did not recall the 700 workers on the barge. The barge sank and 75 workers died - 49 bodies have been found and 26 are still missing,” the Sena said.

“Had the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard not launched search and rescue operations, all the 700 people would have drowned in the sea. These workers may be employees of a private company, but they were doing oil rigging for ONGC. Hence, it was the duty of the ONGC administration to protect them,” it said.

The party said it was surprised to know that ONGC did not take the cyclone warnings seriously when all the states on the west coast were preparing to counter its onslaught and Union Home Minister Amit Shah held discussions with the chief ministers of these states.

'The callous approach of ONGC administration is surprising. Hence the demand of filing a case of culpable homicide against it for its negligence is justified. Do petroleum minister, ONGC chairman, its board of directors have any responsibility or not?' it asked.

The cyclone cannot be blamed for this tragedy at sea. It is not a natural disaster, but a case of culpable homicide, the party alleged.

ONGC is one of the ‘navratna’ companies and the process of its privatisation has begun, the Sena said, adding that petroleum companies have given thousands of crores of rupees to the PM Cares Fund. But the companies failed to protect its workers.

“Will petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan quit owning moral responsibility for the death of innocent people?” it asked.

The party demanded punishment against those who did not act despite having prior information about the cyclone.

'Those who did not act on the inputs are criminals,' it said.

On Thursday, the Sena had sought a high-level probe into the barge tragedy and demanded the resignation of Pradhan and the ONGC chairman. The party, which heads the government in Maharashtra, had also said that the death of workers on the ONGC barge was a man-made tragedy and the guilty must be punished severely. PTI MR NP NP

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