State: Beas Tragedy: Raising Questions on Administration
The height of casualness was seen at Larji Hydropower Project on June 8 when 24 students of VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Hyderabad were washed in flash floods following sudden release of water from reservoir of Larji Hydropower Project. The water was released without any warning. About 60 students and faculty members of the Engineering College were on an excursion to Manali. The students were enjoying themselves on the river bank when suddenly the water level started rising, washing them away in the raging waters of the Beas River in Himachal Pradesh.
Bodies of four students including three girls and a boy were recovered on June 9 (Monday) by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams. In continuation, 2 more bodies were found on June 11 but still 18 are missing.
Jaideep Singh, Commanding Officer, NDRF has been in action for search operation in turbulent Beas River at the accident spot Thalaut and Pandoh Dam with a team comprising 84 NDRF men and 10 divers.
The volume of water in Pandoh Dam is very high but the flood gates cannot be opened as there is a threat of the bodies being washed away.
Devesh Kumar, District Magistrate, Mandi said, “A system of protocol is already available to the dam authorities but I am sure that some deficiencies must be there. I would say that adequate number of signboards are a necessity on the stretches” where the accident took place.
The bodies of four victims were sent to Hyderabad by a Defence aircraft in the early hours of June 10 (Tuesday) and handed over to their relatives.
The tragedy has also put a big question mark on the functioning of the administration in Himachal Pradesh with mining, PWD, forests, revenue and other departments failing to check unauthorised construction of roads by sand mafia and mushrooming of illegal dhabas along the Beas River.
In a video footage of the accident it is clearly visible that sand mafia was active even during the accident. When half of the students had already drowned and the others were struggling for survival, tractors carrying sand were coming from the opposite direction less than 10 m from the spot where the students were drowning.
Officials from Forest Department and Public Welfare Department (PWD) say they cannot do anything about illegal mining as Department of Industries is responsible to check illegal mining in the rivers.
Tonnes of sand is being excavated, loaded and transported to various parts of the State from Beas but no strict action is being taken against the culprits. If authorities had acted strictly against the mafia and illegal roads leading to Beas had been closed by the authorities, the engineering students would have perhaps returned to their homes alive.