Vizag Gas Tragedy: Compensation Cover For Callousness?


Photo: english.sakshi.com

Tragically ironical that in the time the ‘StayHome’ mission people of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh should find themselves forced to run out of their homes in the early hours today terror- struck. A polystyrene gas plant of the LG Polymers near Visakhapatnam started leaking gas in the early hours and the deadly gas started entering into the homes of more than 1000 people of five villages in a 3km radius of the chemical plant. Shocked inhabitants ran out of their homes into the streets breathless and with a burning sensation. Several of them fainted or lost consciousness and fell in the streets while many others ran, sat down or stood there helplessly or loitered around in a daze. However, as against the StayHome irony, at least COVID preparedness of the district helped give immediate relief to the affected with ambulances, oxygen cylinders and ventilators kept in readiness. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was also called in.

Bringing back memories of the horrendous Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984 that killed nearly four thousand people and impacted thousands in the long term, eleven citizens lost their lives in today’s polystyrene gas leak with around 25 continuing to be under critical care and more than 300 being hospitalized. While there was intense media coverage of the tragedy hardly anyone questioned why the gas leak should have happened and the possibility of any callousness involved. The chemical plant reopened in the early hours today after being closed for 40 days due to lockdown. Now, after such a long interval of shutdown why the factory management should not bother to check everything and any possible disorder in the plant machinery beforehand, knowing very well that there was a near-fatal gas called polystyrene produced in the plant? No answers are given till this piece is written except for one of two voices calling for prosecuting the factory.

The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh visited the site promptly and announced hefty compensation packages for the hospitalized, for the ones kept under ventilators and for the kin of the dead. LG Polymers is believed to be one of the most favorite companies of the administration and several irregularities over the years were ignored. Naturally then, no question has been raised over any negligence or callousness that could be involved in the incident leading to loss of innocent lives. Even otherwise it has become customary in India just to condemn such incidents or express dismay or express heartfelt condolences and do nothing as follow-up. The VVIP archival condolence messages that get put up too promptly also reflect such kind of deplorable mental approach. Hope someone would do deep into why such tragedies should keep on happening and who is accountable for the Vizag Gas Tragedy, this time. It should not end with experts saying that any long-term impact of the gas leak is unlikely or the authorities finally taking credit for handling the incident and its fallout efficiently. 

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