Zee Media Bureau
Shimla: An inquiry report on the death of 24 students and a tour guide near Mandi has blamed Larji Hydropower project authorities for the tragedy.
The probe was launched after 24 students of V N R Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology of Hyderabad were swept away on June 08 in the rush of water released into Beas river without a warning from the nearby hydropower project.
The inquiry report was on Thursday submitted to the Himachal Pradesh High Court by Mandi`s Divisional Commissioner Onkar Sharma.
There was a systemic failure in releasing water into the Beas river without a warning from a dam, and the warning system itself was inadequate, the magisterial inquiry report said.
A division bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan, which treated a media report as a public interest litigation, asked the state to file status report by June 24, the next date of hearing, on the steps taken on the inquiry report.
Anguished over the status report filed by the state into the incident at its last hearing on June 16, the high court asked the divisional commissioner to appear personally in court and submit his inquiry report.
In the inquiry report, Divisional Commissioner Sharma said the discharge of water in spillways was raised from 20 cumecs or cubic metres per second to 450 cumecs within one hour.
"There are no standard operating procedures related to release of water from the barrage. The officers involved in powerhouse operation and those handling barrage operations are not working in tandem...," the report said.
"The warning system is also inadequate. All this constitutes a systemic failure due to wrong and entrenched faulty procedure and practices prevalent at the Larji project," said the probe report.
It said the students were also informed and warned by locals (about the release of water into the river), and had they not turned a blind eye towards the warning calls, signals and whistling by locals, they could not have been drowned or washed away.
The bench directed the engineering college to file an affidavit containing the details as to who made the decision to allow the students to visit Himachal Pradesh and the concerned site.
Taking serious note of the accident, the court had on June 09 said it was not only a case of callousness but also grave negligence.
Three more bodies of students of the V N R Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology were traced on Thursday in the river, taking the total number of bodies recovered so far to 12.
An equal number of students and a tour operator are still missing. The students were on an excursion to Manali.
(With IANS inputs)