Congress and BJP criticise the State for shifting blame

Apparently finding it hard to cope with the growing criticism from opposition parties over alleged violation of various laws by Bhushan Steel Limited, the Naveen Patnaik Government on Thursday shifted Labour Secretary C.T.M. Suguna from her post and posted her as Commissioner, Consolidation.

The government transferred Ms. Suguna even after she along with Labour Commissioner Shalini Pandit and Dhenkanal Collector Roopa Roshan Sahoo addressed a press conference at Dhenkanal saying that only two workers had died and 29 others were injured in the Bhushan plant blast on November 13.

Blame game

Raj Kumar Sharma, Principal Secretary, Forest & Environment Department was given additional charge of Labour Department. Ms. Suguna relinquished office as Secretary of Labour & Employees’ State Insurance Department after she returned to the capital from Dhenkanal. Opposition parties Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party blamed the State government for shifting blame on the official in an attempt to save its own skin and divert people’s attention from the controversy over the number of deaths due to the mishap.

According to sources, an attempt was apparently made to suppress the exact number of people killed and injured in the mishap since details of a letter by the Labour Commissioner was not taken seriously at the highest level.

The Labour Commissioner, who verified from as many as 35 contractors and agencies, found that as many as 974 workers were working at the blast furnace.

Sources further said that the Bhushan Steel plant was not formally commissioned for operation till the tragedy struck on November 13. The laws pertaining to labour and safety comes to play only after the formal commissioning of the plant, according to sources.

Activists’ demand

Meanwhile, human rights activists and labour union leaders demanded a CBI inquiry and shutting down of steel plant of Bhushan Steel Limited (BSL) after the incident of blast during commissioning of blast furnace II.

Staging a demonstration under the banner of World Human Rights Protection Association (WHRPA) in front of Raj Bhawan, activists charged the State government with hushing up the matter. BSL authorities were not forthcoming as to how many workers were engaged in commissioning of blast furnace II, raising suspicion over the number of casualties, said Abhinna Kumar Hota, president of WHRPA.