Barge P305 tragedy: kin of deceased stage protest

FSUI mulls legal battle if Afcons Infrastructure does not give pension, compensation

Demanding compensation and justice, families of 86 people, who lost their lives after barge P305 and tugboat, Varaprada, sank during Cyclone Tauktae, staged a protest on Monday outside the office of Afcons Infrastructure, which was providing its services to the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Limited.

“That was not an accident. The company was well aware of the incoming cyclone but did not take any precaution to safeguard its employees resulting in the death of 86 people. Since then, the matter of compensation has been hanging in midair. Neither ONGC nor Afcons has offered compensation to the families of the deceased,” Manoj Yadav, general secretary, Forward Semen’s Union of India (FSUI), said.

On June 9, the family members along with the union had held an agitation outside the ONGC office. The FSUI said that even after two months of the tragedy, around 9 to 10 bodies were yet to be identified despite having taken DNA samples of their relatives.

Mr. Yadav said that ONGC offered ₹2 lakh as cash relief while Afcons was depositing ₹5 lakh in the accounts of a few family members. “This is not compensation. This cash relief is only to show to the court that they have taken some action,” he said.

A letter submitted by the FSUI to Afcons has demanded a lifetime pension to the dependents of the deceased workers which should not be less than ₹30,000 per month. “The survivors were also subjected to extreme trauma, which was both physical and mental, and therefore, they should be adequately compensated. An initial instalment of not less than ₹10 lakh should be immediately paid to each survivor,” the letter said.

Mr. Yadav said that those who died were sole bread earners in their families and their deaths were the result of the company’s inaction. “No action has been taken by ONGC in this matter. Afcons has neither been blacklisted nor any arrests are being made. We have given three days to the company and in case of no response, we are ready to fight a legal battle other than intensifying our agitation,” he added.

An Afcons spokesperson said the company was committed to honouring its promised compensation to the families of the Brave Nature’s Victims (BNVs) among its employees and subcontractors. “The compensation process is nearing completion of statutory requirements. We have already disbursed ₹5 lakh to each BNV family as an immediate financial support.”

The company said that a financial plan for supporting education of the children of the BNVs was also being finalised and the release of the first instalment would be in August. “The trauma suffered by the survivors of barge P305 and tugboat, Varaprada, in Cyclone Tauktae is irreversible. To aid them in recuperating from this horrific incident, we have already released ₹1 lakh each for the 188 survivors,” the spokesperson said.

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