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Naik orders Mesco probe

Ram Naik

New Delhi, Aug. 14: Petroleum minister Ram Naik has ordered an inquiry into the hiring of Mesco helicopters by ONGC and given chairman Subir Raha 15 days to bring the oil major’s offshore air transportation up to “global standards”.

ONGC has been asked to work in coordination with the director-general of civil aviation (DGCA) to implement the “emergency plan” for air safety.

A senior ministry official said a committee is being set up to inquire into all aspects of safety of life in offshore oil and gas operations.

The panel will, in particular, scan air logistics, maintenance, repairs and renovation of offshore structures and pipelines.

It will also look into the management’s role to find out whether there has been any “act of omission”.

The inquiry is one of the demands raised by ONGC officers after the chopper crashed as it took off from Bombay High, killing most of the 25 company officials and four crew members on board.

The probe ordered today will be independent of the DGCA inquiry into the incident.

The Mesco chopper that plunged into the sea a couple of minutes after take-off from the Sagar Kiran oil rig was a 1995 Russian-made craft, reportedly with a twin-engine.

Naik has already promised that one family member of each ONGC victim would be given a job with the public sector company. The financial compensation for each family is expected to be between Rs 19.3 lakh and Rs 28.5 lakh.

Raha had faced the anger of his colleagues after he rushed to the Juhu helibase on hearing about the crash. They attacked his car, protesting alleged inadequacy of flight safety for the employees.

Saved by CISF guards, Raha later filed a case of attempt to murder against union leaders at Juhu police station.

The company’s western offshore employees had threatened an indefinite strike. The management, however, obtained a Bombay High Court order restraining them from striking work.

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