Balco vice president arrested for power plant tragedy

Raipur, Nov 17 ( After evading arrest for more than a month, Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd (Balco) vice president Viral Mehta and two others have been nabbed in connection with the Sep 23 tragedy in which at least 41 workers were killed when an under-construction chimney caved in.

As many as 41 disfigured bodies of contracted workers were retrieved from the mishap site at Korba town, some 250 km from here where the Balco plant is located, while dozens of people engaged in the construction work were still missing.

“Mehta, who was also project manager of the power plant, and two other officials Deepak Narang, associate general manager, and Anup Mahapatra, graduate engineer (trainee), attached with the project were arrested Monday night at Korba town,” Ratanlal Dangi, district superintendent of police, Korba, told Inditop.

Vedanta Resources Plc-controlled Balco, in which the Indian government holds a 49 percent stake, had awarded a Chinese firm Shandong Electric Power Construction Corporation (SEPCO) the task of constructing two thermal power plants of 600 MW each at Korba.

Later, SEPCO outsourced the work of the construction of a 257-metre chimney to Gannon Dunkerley and Company Ltd (GDCL).

Korba police had registered a case against Balco soon after the accident that created wide resentment in Chhattisgarh against the aluminium major. GDCL project manager Manoj Sharma had been arrested Oct 7 on charges of several lapses, including using sub-standard construction material for the chimney.

Police had also interrogated about 20 Chinese engineers employed by SEPCO at Korba but have not yet arrested any SEPCO staff.

The Chhattisgarh government had accused Balco of “doing little” for the families of the workers killed in the accident and ordered a judicial probe.

A single-member judicial commission of Sandeep Bakhshi, the district and sessions court judge here, has begun investigating the tragedy.