The death toll in the ash pipe explosion at the NTPC thermal power plant in Unchahar in the Raebareli district of Uttar Pradesh touched 30 on Thursday, November 2, even as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued a notice to the state government.
The blast, which occurred at the boiler of the 500-MW Unit 6 of the plant around 3:30 pm on Wednesday, had initially led to the death of 10 people, with scores of others injured. Some of them, who had sustained serious injuries, subsequently succumbed to them, leading the death toll to rise to 30.
The toll is expected to climb even higher, in what could be one of the worst industrial accidents in India. And calls -- especially from political circles -- have already started to find those responsible for the incident.
The NTPC station has a total of six thermal power units, employs nearly 900 people and supplies electricity to nine states.
An official statement from the Power Ministry said: "Unit 6 of the plant is under shutdown after the accident; however the other units of the station are operating normally."
Help pours in
The local police had rushed to the spot mere hours after the incident, and as word spread of it, help started pouring in from various quarters.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced Rs 2 lakh solatium for the next of kin of those killed in the incident, Rs 50,000 for the grievously injured and Rs 25,000 for the other injured workers.
Then, on Thursday, morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi matched that and announced a further Rs 2 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for all injured.
Prime Minister @narendramodi has approved an ex- gratia of Rs. 2 lakh each for the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to the accident at the NTPC plant in Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh. PM has approved Rs. 50,000 each for those injured due to the accident.— PMO India (@PMOIndia) November 2, 2017
Then, Union Minister of State for Power (Independent Charge) RK Singh visited the spot of the accident later on Thursday, and announced ex gratia of Rs 20 lakh for the kin of the deceased, Rs 10 lakh for those seriously injured and Rs 2 lakh for the others who were injured.
Meanwhile, political pressure began mounting on the BJP, which is in power at both the Centre and Uttar Pradesh, to find an answer for the question "who is responsible."
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has already visited the site and demanded a probe into the matter. He was quoted by PTI as saying: "People are saying that it (the plant unit) was run early (before schedule). It should not have been run that way. We will demand a probe."
Even the Samajwadi Party -- which had contested the UP Assembly elections earlier this year in alliance with the Congress and lost miserably -- piled on the pressure.
SP leader Ahmed Hasan was quoted by PTI as saying: "The families of the deceased should be given a Rs 50 lakh compensation, while those injured should get Rs 10 lakh. Apart from this, we demand that the family members of the affected persons be given government jobs."
Human rights violated?
Meanwhile, the NHRC issued a notice to the state government over the incident and said it expects a detailed report on it within six weeks.
It also said in a statement that a "high-level probe into the matter is immediately required to ascertain the negligence and errors, if any, behind the incident, which involves the right to life."
NTPC and the UP government have already ordered a magisterial probe into the incident.