The Forward Seamen Union of India (FSUI) and Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU) demonstrated at the head office of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) against the management of ONGC in connection with the death of 86 sailors.
The unions demanded compensation for the families of the dead. The unions pointed out that the ONGC management is accountable for the deaths.
On 17th May, the barge P305 (a barge is a shoal-draft flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river and canal transport of bulk goods, usually pulled by a tugboat, though some of them come with engines) and a tugboat MV Varaprada capsized and sank in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Mumbai due to the cyclonic storm Tauktae. 261 sailors were aboard the barge and 13 aboard the tugboat. 86 of these sailors died in this incident.
ONGC had hired this vessel, which belonged to Asia Foundations and Constructions Ltd (AFCONS). This company was on a contract with ONGC. The company is owned by the Shapoorji Pallonji group. This company is the first private company in infrastructure development. Further, it is among just 15 companies that have developed ocean infrastructure
FSUI reported that this tragedy was the sixth biggest in the world in the last three decades. The tugboat was not adequately equipped; several floats were punctured. The barge was too old to be able to withstand the storm and sank in the ocean.
The fact is that the Meteorological Department had forecast the impending cyclonic storm on the evening of 11th May. The Department had issued warnings of the danger posed by the coming storm and had directed all fishing boats, and all vessels of ONGC and other companies to return to shore by the evening of 15th May. Despite this, the barge P305 with so many of its crew aboard, remained fastened to an ONGC platform. The necessary safety equipment of the barge was not in a condition to handle any catastrophe. It is clear that both ONGC and AFCONS neglected the safety of the crew and are responsible for the deaths of the sailors.
While the victims’ families have been promised some compensation, it is a fact that the Indian state does not value the lives of workers. Its policies and its actions show that it has abdicated all responsibility for providing security of livelihood and safety at work to those who labour. This is why workers continue to die in such incidents. Mazdoor Ekta Lehar condemns the state’s criminal neglect of the lives of workers.