A team comprising CPIML Bihar legislative party leader Mahboob Alam and AICCTU State Secretary Ranvijay Kumar visited Barauni Refinery on 17 September to find the facts relating to the blast that occurred on 16 September in AVU-1, one of the 3 boilers in the refinery. Accompanying the enquiry team were CPIML Beguserai District Secretary Diwakar Kumar, Chandradev Verma, Rajesh Shrivastava, Baiju Singh, Sonu and Farnaz.
19 people were injured (14 contract workers and 5 employees) in the blast that occurred in AVU-1 at about 10.30 am on 16 September.
The team first met the injured workers undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Begusarai, and the Refinery hospital. Of these, 8 were undergoing treatment at Glocal and 11 at the Refinery hospital. 15 of the injured workers were discharged on 17 September while 2 (Mohd Shahid and Laxman Paswan) are still under treatment at Glocal and 2 (contract worker Gopal Singh and Engg Assistant Satyaprakash) at the Refinery hospital. The team members spoke with the injured and assured them of all help.
Cause of the Accident:
The root cause of the accident is the multiple level criminal negligence on the part of the management of the 60 year old AUV boilers:
- Faulty quality control inspection. This is done through mobile photos whereas actually faulty pieces of iron fall off during welding.
- The refinery was closed for one month prior to the accident. The AUV was in operation while it was being checked. The workers were made to climb on the 50 m high and 15 ft wide AUV with its chimney on top, without any safety norms being followed, and the AUV heater was turned on. This caused the blast and the 19 workers suffered injuries due to the blast, as well as due to falling from a height and inhaling gas.
The Barauni Refinery management is fully responsible for this accident. Strict action should be taken against the management and concerned officers and a high level probe should be ordered.
The danger of similar and bigger accidents in the future is a very real one. Quality control and safety norms have been thrown to the winds. Privatization, corporatization, ending labour laws and looting workers' labour will play havoc with the lives and livelihoods of workers. The 3 AUVs should be immediately quality-checked and either revamped or replaced with safe ones.
Injured Contract Workers' Condition is Serious
Fortunately no worker has died so far but contract worker Mohd Shahid's condition is very serious. His right side of the body is not well and he has difficulty in breathing. There are serious injuries in the head and both legs. Gopal Singh is extremely poor and seriously injured, as is Laxman Paswan. Their families are hard put to survive. The District administration has not bothered to enquire about their welfare. It must be ensured that they get the benefit of social security, especially ESI and EPF benefits.
CPIML has asked the state administration and the refinery management to take action of the following demands:
- All the contract workers who are impoverished should be given immediate relief of Rs 2 lakhs and compensation of Rs 5 lakhs per worker.
- Injured contract worker Mohd Shahid and others undergoing treatment should be given the best life-saving medical treatment.
- Strict action against the Barauni Refinery management and a high level enquiry into the accident; quality check of AUVs 1, 2, and 3 and either subsequent revamping or replacement, so that future accidents may be averted.
- The District administration should discharge its responsibility and give the victim families compensation as well as 6 months' free rations, and guarantee implementation of labour laws and ESI, EPF in the refinery.