Sabotage cry in plant blaze

A major fire broke out at Abhijeet Group's yet-to-be-commissioned power plant at Chandwa in Latehar district last evening with the embers yet to die down, triggering speculation that the incident could have been an act of sabotage.

By Our Correspondent in Ranchi
  • Published 24.05.15
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Smoke emits on Saturday from a conveyor belt at Abhijeet Group's power plant in Latehar, where a fire broke out on Friday evening. Telegraph picture

Ranchi, May 23: A major fire broke out at Abhijeet Group's yet-to-be-commissioned power plant at Chandwa in Latehar district last evening with the embers yet to die down, triggering speculation that the incident could have been an act of sabotage.

Sources claimed that the flames could not be contained completely even 24 hours after the blaze was first noticed at the coal-handling unit. The only consolation was that the fire did not spread to any of the four power generating units located on the same premises, or else, the fallout could have been catastrophic.

Although 15-20 company employees were present on the premises at the time of the blaze, none was injured. Neither the extent of the damages nor the cause of the fire could be ascertained immediately.

However, company sources claimed that the entire coal-handling plant, with costly conveyor belts and imported equipment, had been damaged, causing losses worth crores to the group that is already facing crisis due to cancellation of coal blocks in the wake of a Supreme Court order.

Some employees were the first to spot the fire around 6.30pm yesterday inside the coal-handling unit of the power plant at Chandwa, around 60km from Latehar district headquarters and some 80km from the state capital.

Soon, two fire tenders - one is owned by the company while the other belongs to the district administration - rushed to the spot.

Assistant general manager (AGM), Abhijeet Group, Amrendra Kumar, who looks after the Chandwa project, said it was too early to comment on the losses incurred and the reason behind the fire.

"It is very difficult to assess the damages right now as two fire tenders are still fighting the blaze," he said.

Kumar, however, said the incident smacked of a planned conspiracy.

"Last evening, we rushed a fire tender to the plant as soon as we received the information (about the blaze). However, there were boulders and iron rods lying on the approach road, which delayed the fire-fighting operations. Moreover, there were fires at 12 places inside the coal-handling unit last night. This morning, fires were noticed at three new places, suggesting some foul play," he claimed, without naming any individual or organisation.

Latehar SP Ajay Linda said what sparked the fire was not clear yet but ruled out the possibility of any sabotage.

"People suspect the hand of local thieves in the incident. But, my officers, who visited the spot, have not so far found any evidence suggesting it," the SP said.

However, Linda added, they were looking into the matter from all angles and would soon file an FIR at Chandwa thana.

Spread over 400 acres, the Chandwa project - also known as Matrishri Usha Jayaswal Thermal Power Plant - has an installed capacity of 1,080MW.

With four sub-critical generating units having 270MW capacity each, the plant is almost ready.

But, Abhijeet Group, which has already pumped in around Rs 2,000 crore into this project, has been unable to commission the plant for want of coal. The firm was allocated at least four coal blocks in the state. The same stand cancelled now after the apex court's order.