A major boiler explosion took place in the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) power plant at Unchahar in Rae Barely, UP on 1st November 2017. More than 100 people were griviously injured in the explosion. The death toll has passed 40 and many are still not out of danger.
While various investigation teams are still examining the plant, there is enough evidence to conclude that the disaster took place due to hasty commissioning of the plant. Consider the following facts:
The plant was originally scheduled to become operational in 40 months after the initial announcement in August 2013, i.e., by December 2016. However, there was a delay of 16 months before the work could be started. An aggressive deadline was kept for completion by 31 March 2017, i.e., full 12 months less than the original period. On 30th of March 2017, the Union Power Minister made a grand announcement in the Lok Sabha that the unit will be completed on schedule. It was indeed started and connected to the grid (synchronised) the very next day.
The first indication that it was prematurely started is that the plant took five months for starting commercial operation instead of the normal period of two months. Some experts have stated that the completion certificate was given by the Central Electricity Authority even before the crucial ash handling system and dry ash evacuation system were complete. The second indication that work was still being completed even after seven months of starting the plant is the presence of over 300 casual workers in the plant when the plant needs no more than half a dozen workers to operate.
Plant operators have also said that ash removal system had become clogged and ash had accumulated to height of 20 metres. This means that over half the boiler volume was filled up by ash and such an alarming situation had never occured in the history of NTPC. This required a shut down to clear the ash and clinkers (hard deposits formed due to the presence of ash). However, due to pressure to keep the plant running, cleaning operation was being done with the boiler working full-steam.
The power unit tripped twice on the day of the disaster giving clear warning that the unit was overloaded and needed to be shut down. When these were ignored, the built up pressure from the the boiler led to the explosion.
In light of the above facts, the severe burn injuries on more than a 100 people including three AGMs and death of over 40 of the injured cannot be called an accident. The disaster is clearly a result of the authorities not caring for life and safety of workers in pursuing their narrow aims. It is nothing short of mass murder and needs to be condemned as such. The present government must answer for this disaster.