With the Hetero Drugs Limited (HDL) management keeping mum even 24 hours after a fire claimed two lives at its Nakkapalli plant, doubts are being raised over the cause of the explosion in one of the reactors. While it is not clear as to why the HDL management did not allow the police and the media to enter the premises until the superintendent of police G Srinivas arrived, doubts are being raised whether they had tried to wipe out any crucial evidence.
Employees at the plant on Sunday said that the reactor was brand new but was making noises, prompting B Jayadheer Reddy and K Tirupati to check it. But it exploded, killing the duo on the spot.
Adding to the curiosity, the HDL authorities reportedly did not allow the employees working in the factory at the time of the blast to go even after their shift was over. They reportedly forced the employees to work and let them off only at 5 a.m. on Sunday.
“The police, media and villagers of Nakkapalli were all outside the gate. The officers feared that letting us out at that time might result in chaos and cause more damage to the unit’s image,” said a MSc graduate who works as chemist in the unit.
Meanwhile, the clues team visited the spot on Sunday morning and collected some evidence. The police said they can arrive at a reason for the blast only after the team submits its report.
However, workers at the factory gave a picture of the lack of safety measures at the plant. Employees said that a major mishap was averted by chance even though containers with solvents had been kept next to the reactor. More casualty was avoided only because many workers had gone out for snacks at the time of the blast.
It is also learnt that workers’ efforts to douse the fire turned futile as water did not come at full pressure. “We tried to put out the fire but water was flowing with less pressure. They (management) said the water is being pumped into the tankers,” said Ramakrishna, a casual worker.
He also alleged that though the management had agreed to provide them with proper gloves, shoes and other protective gear by May 2012, the promises were not fulfilled till date. CITU state vice-president A Ajay Sharma alleged that the company was operating with minimum number of employees without considering their safety.
He said that as against eight persons required for a task, the company employed only two to three people.
“On regular days, most of them have to just monitor the functioning of the unit. But they cannot run between reactors, boilers and containers when there is any problem which could lead to such mishaps,” he said.
Hetero Drugs and Labs workers union president M Appalaraju said that the factory management was acting like a dictator and was being insensitive towards workers problems. Though the villagers have been complaining about pollution in the area, the company management has not responded, he said. “They continued drug manufacturing till 5 a.m. on Sunday even after mishap.”