Madurai

Stone quarry accident: Assistant Director of Mines suspended

Collector V. Vishnu and SP P. Saravanan with the rescuers at the stone quarry on Thursday, May 19, 2022.

Collector V. Vishnu and SP P. Saravanan with the rescuers at the stone quarry on Thursday, May 19, 2022. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Five days after an accident at a stone quarry in Tirunelveli district claimed three lives, the Tamil Nadu government on Thursday suspended Assistant Director of Mines Vinodh T. Tamilarasan in connection with the incident. A search is still under way to locate another person trapped under the debris in the 300-foot-deep quarry.  

Tirunelveli Collector V Vishnu told journalists that Mr. Vinodh was suspended for allegedly failing to check the violations in Venkateshwara Stone Crusher Unit. A probe would be conducted to ascertain the role of others officials too.

Announcing details of special inspections to be undertaken in quarries in the district, Mr. Vishnu said that besides employing modern scientific methods to assess violations, the traditional methods of survey would be used to corroborate the findings so that the wrongdoers did not escape.

On making revenue officials responsible for checking violations in the quarries, as mandated by the State government through a communiqué in February last, Mr. Vishnu said that right from the Village Administrative Officer to the Collector, every official of the Revenue Department should inspect the quarries under their jurisdiction every month and submit reports if violations were identified in the standard proforma.

“We inspected a few stone quarries in the Radhapuram taluk in the past and slapped a fine of ₹20 crore for violation in a quarry, while 6 quarries near the Western Ghats were sealed for violations. All tahsildars have been asked to submit monthly reports on the inspections conducted by them in their jurisdictions. Now, the proposed scientific survey, to be completed within 60 days in all 52 stone quarries in the district, will bring to light the irregularities, if any, when the results are compared with the reports submitted earlier by the tahsildars,” Mr. Vishnu said. 

The Collector discussed the further course of the rescue operation with NDRF and Fire and Rescue Services personnel. He said a controlled explosion had to be conducted again to blast several layers of rocks, weighing more than 100 tonnes, to reach the suspected spot where the missing lorry driver, Rajendran, has been trapped along with his vehicle. Based on the information provided by the two survivors — earthmover operators Vijay and Murugan — the search was being conducted to locate Rajendran.

A police team, led by Nanguneri ASP Rajath Chaturvedi, who is the investigating officer in the case, conducted searches in the houses and offices of the prime accused ‘Chamber’ Selvaraj and his son in Thisaiyanvilai and Palayamkottai on Thursday and seized some documents apparently showing mining beyond the permissible level.

After obtaining permission from the Judicial Magistrate Court, Mr. Rajath Chaturvedi and his team broke the lock of the Venkateshwara Stone Quarry office at Adaimithippaankulam on Thursday evening to secure the records.

 “We have also taken steps to impound his properties and deployed three special teams to nab the father and the son who are on the run after the accident,” said Tirunelveli Superintendent of Police P. Saravanan. He said an impartial inquiry would be conducted.

Two officials of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation met Rajendran’s wife Manimegalai at the site to ascertain his duration of service with Venkateshwara Stone Crusher unit. She told them that Rajendran was working there since 2018 for the weekly salary of ₹5,000.

“As per the records available with the EPFO, only 16 persons of this unit have been registered with EPFO. On getting the records of the company, we’ll check if the victims of this accident have been enrolled with EPFO. If the deceased have been registered with the EPFO, their family will get due compensation and family pension. If the company did not register their names, legal action will follow to render justice to the affected families,” the officials said.


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Printable version | May 20, 2022 3:24:24 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/stone-quarry-accident-assistant-director-of-mines-suspended/article65430086.ece