A sombre occasion turns into a political affair

A sombre occasion of distribution of compensation to next of kin of victims of last year’s blast at HPCL Visakh Refinery turned into a political affair accompanied by fanfare.

The venue, the HPCL Club, was florally decorated while the management presented shawls and bouquets to VIPs at the meeting organised here on Thursday to distribute cheques worth Rs.3.2 crore as compensation to the next of kin of contract workers who died in the Cooling Tower blast at the Visakh Refinery last year August 23.

Union Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Panabaka Lakshmi, who was the chief guest, refused to accept a memento saying that it was not the proper occasion.

As the first instalment, HPCL handed over 16 cheques each amounting to Rs. 20 lakh to the families of 16 contract workers killed in the mishap. The incident claimed 28 lives -- one senior executive of the refinery and 27 contract workers. Cheques to the families of the other 11 victims would be handed over later.

Ms. Lakshmi said the inquiry had revealed that the management was not at fault for the accident. She said due to pressure from local elected representatives, they had to increase the compensation amount to Rs.20 lakh – the highest so far for a contract worker killed in an industrial accident.

Later, when reporters asked her about the report of Hirak Dutta, Executive Director of Oil Industry Safety Directorate, which probed into the circumstances leading to the blast, she said “The file is now with Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas M. Veerappa Moily and they will take action whatever is recommended.”

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