The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CM, Ranchi officials inspect leak site
- Two Tata Motors officials arrested for negligence

Jamshedpur, May 28: Apparently prompted by chief minister Madhu Koda’s early morning indictment of company officials, the district police swung into action today and arrested two officials of Tata Motors for dereliction of duty that they believed led to yesterday’s chlorine gas leak spreading fear and panic in Telco Colony.

Koda, who visited the city in the morning to meet victims recovering in hospital, also took a tour of the leak site. Later, he called for FIRs to be lodged and commented that prima facie, he felt company officials’ negligence caused the leak. Also, officials did not evacuate residents promptly.

Also on cue was chief inspector of factories (Ranchi) P.C. Jha, who came over for an on-the-spot inquiry at the water treatment plant. Deputy chief inspector of factories A.K. Singh and factory inspector B.A. Kumar were also part of his team.

The team spoke to officials and workers of the Tata Motors water management department. The factory inspector also went through the plant’s operations in detail. He would be talking to senior company officials tomorrow.

“We are yet to conclude the probe. We have checked the water plant’s records. We have also noted the poor condition of the cylinder and for how many years it was lying in water,” said a member of the factory inspector’s team.

Later in the day, the police arrested two Tata Motors officials — Samir Kant Ghatak, deputy general manager (water supply and utility services), and B.K. Sarkar, manager, water treatment plant — from their homes. They were then sent to judicial custody.

Confirming the arrests, East Singhbhum superintendent of police Navin Kumar Singh told The Telegraph that the two officials were held for dereliction of duty. “Why shouldn’t they be arrested and sent to jail for causing problems to 200 people due to a gas leak,” he asked. Singh did not rule out more arrests.

According to sources, the cylinder that caused the leak was old and rusty. It was lying in the water plant for years.

As crane was deployed to push the leaking cylinder under water. But since a lot of gas had escaped and the cylinder had become light, it wasn’t going under.

Significantly, Jusco — a Tata Steel subsidiary that maintained and operated the water plant — criticised Tata Motors authorities for ignoring repeated requests to remove the old cylinder from the premises.

Ritu Raj Sinha, the Jusco general manager (business development and corporate services), said the authorities of Tata Motors should have acted responsibly.

“The cylinder was lying inside the plant for 8 to 10 years. We had asked the authorities to remove it,” he said.

Amid the trading of charges, residents of Telco Colony who had left the area after last night’s gas leak began returning home.

According to Manitosh Ray, general manager (medical services) Tata Motors Hospital, “In all, 180 patients were admitted to the hospital late on Tuesday evening. There were only 24 patients who had been in hospital overnight.”

Four patients — two women and as many children — were still being treated at the hospital. They were likely to be released tomorrow.

“I’m feeling quite okay. But the coughing hasn’t stopped completely,” said a Truck Park resident, one of 20 patients who had to be admitted to ICU.

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