As the toll in the Arabian Sea barge tragedy rose to 37, Maharashtra's ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies on Thursday demanded that Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan must be held accountable and should quit over the loss of precious human lives. Hitting out at the Centre, Shiv Sena MP and senior leader Arvind Sawant said that if there had been a similar tragedy in Maharashtra, the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leaders would have sought resignations of the people in the government.
"The ONGC is under the Petroleum Ministry headed by Dharmendra Pradhan. Why don't the BJP leaders seek his resignation? Who will be held accountable for the huge loss of lives in this tragedy, give compensation and other relief... Merely pointing fingers won't do?" Sawant said. Terming it as a 'man-made tragedy', Congress State Spokesperson Sachin Sawant said that 37 innocent people on the Barge Papaa-305 died when it sank, while another 38-plus are missing.
"The warnings of the imminent Cyclone Tauktae had been given in advance. Action must be taken against all those responsible for endangering lives of the workers. Dharmendra Pradhan should resign taking moral responsibility," Sawant demanded. Seeking action and charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against all responsible for the barge disaster, Minorities Affairs Minister Nawab Malik said that "Pradhan must be held answerable" for the incident which left 37 people dead and many more missing.
"Everyone was aware of the cyclone and warnings were issued for all to take necessary precautions. While fisherfolk were moved to safety and prevented from going to the sea, why did the ONGC not heed these warnings and follow safety protocols?" Malik asked. He said that all the workers should have been evacuated from the barges or oil rigs and brought ashore before the monster cyclone hit as is the norm worldwide, which was not done.
"Due to the ONGC's failure, more than 600 lives were endangered and 37 have already been killed besides many more missing. Strict action must be taken against those in-charge at ONGC and they should be booked under charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder," Malik demanded.
The MVA leaders' responses came after the Barge Papaa-305 with 261 people on board went adrift. It sank late on Monday and later 37 bodies were recovered while the rest were saved in commendable operations by the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard.
Besides Papaa-305, two other barges and an oil-drilling rig were also hit badly by Cyclone Tauktae which virtually went overhead the Bombay High Fields of the ONGC on Monday before making landfall in Gujarat.