Deaths at Sea: Probe, fix responsibility in ONGC

Deaths at Sea: Probe, fix responsibility in ONGC


A parliamentary panel has asked the government to initiate an impartial probe and fix accountability in ONGC for the 2021 accident off the Mumbai coast that killed 86. Western offshore was hit by the cyclone Tauktae during May 16-17, 2021. On May 17, 2021, Barge P-305, deployed by Afcons for work it was doing for ONGC, lost all anchors and hit a wellhead platform after drifting.

The sinking of Afcons’ Barge P-305 and a tug boat Varaprada killed 86 persons.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas, which had originally recommended fixing accountability at all levels in ONGC in its March report, has once again reiterated its stand in its action-taken report table in Parliament last week.

“The Committee is not satisfied with the reply of the Ministry (of Petroleum and Natural Gas) keeping in view the fact that the ministry has relied fully on the explanation furnished by the ONGC and has taken no action at their own end for conducting an independent inquiry into fixing accountability for lapses on part of ONGC officials including the Board level,” the report said.

It felt that had a senior official of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) at the corporate level taken charge of the situation, the response and consequential damage caused by the cyclone Tauktae could have been mitigated considerably.

“The Committee is of the view that the accountability should be vested in the top rung executives of ONGC for the cyclone Tauktae incident,” the report said.

Reiterating its earlier recommendation, the panel headed by BJP leader Ramesh Bidhuri, wanted the ministry to “conduct a thorough investigation in an impartial manner to fix the responsibility of ONGC officials at various levels.”
The ministry had told the committee that all barges in the Arabian Sea were on May 13, 2021, instructed to move to a safe location in view of the impending cyclone. All barges except Papaa-305 moved to sheltered water.

The corporate disaster management plan (CDMP) was promptly activated and the firm had system and processes for handling of cyclonic situations, it told the panel.

“ONGC had placed its five officers under suspension after the incidence of Cyclone Tauktae. Three of these executives were of the level of E-9 i.e. Executive Director which is the highest level below the Board.

“One executive was of E-7 level (Chief General Manager) and one of E-6 level (General Manager). However, after inquiry all have been reinstated,” the ministry told the panel.

The committee wasn’t impressed by the reply and desired that “a thorough investigation in an impartial manner (be conducted) to fix the responsibility of ONGC officials at various levels in this incident, particularly at senior hierarchy.”

It wanted officials found negligent of duty to be identified.

“The ministry may also share the investigation report as well as the reasons for which the Officers were reinstated. The Committee may be apprised of the action taken in this regard,” the report added. PTI ANZ MR


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