Accommodation barge Gal Constructor with 137 people on board had drifted 100 km from Raigad to Palghar where it ran aground on May 18 last year, in the middle of Cyclone Tauktae. A year later, no compensation has been paid to these 137 people, as they were “safely rescued”. The police have also not filed a complaint as to how the barge ran aground.
It comes even as the process of compensating the families of 86 people who died and 272 survivors aboard the barge P 305 and tugboat Varaprada which sank in the Arabian Sea during the cyclone on May 17 last year is in progress. A few FIRs were also registered to investigate the negligence that led to the sinking of the two vessels.
Gal Constructor was parked near an oil rig in Bombay High South Field on the night of May 14. The tug Varaprada took her to the outer anchorage at Raigad on 16 May. While Barge Master Agnelo Rebello of Gal Constructor, whose statement was recorded by a high-level committee set up by the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, wanted the two vessels brought to the inside the inner anchorage due to the upcoming cyclone, this was not permitted and the vessels had to stay put in the outer anchorage.
Due to the cyclone, Varaprada and Gal Constructor began to drift. As Varaprada sank, Gal Constructor drifted 100 km to Palghar, where she ran aground. Fortunately, the 137 people aboard the barge were rescued by the Navy.
On Tuesday, an officer at Yellow Gate Police Station in Mumbai said no FIR had been filed in the incident as “none of the Gal Constructor victims approached us”.
Many Gal Constructor survivors, who spoke to The Indian Express, said they feared they would be blacklisted if they raised their voices. They said they had not yet received any compensation or employment or even their 15-day salary for last May.
A representative of Tirupati Vessels Pvt Ltd, owner of Gal Constructor, said they did not intend to compensate the survivors, “because they were rescued”. “The ship was badly damaged…we are in the process of scrapping it, due to which we are facing financial problems,” the representative added. An official from Afcons Infrastructure Ltd, which had leased the vessel, said: ‘There was no loss of life or personal property on Gal Constructor.
Today, the Gal Constructor continues to be stuck in the rocks at Vadrai near Palghar. After the Coast Guard described it as a cause of environmental pollution, the oil from the barge was removed using booms. A fortnight ago, the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) gave permission to the owners to remove the wreck. MMB managing director Amit Saini said: “We have cleared the vessel to be cut in place so its parts can be removed.”
Of the 75 people who died aboard the P 305, 66 were Afcons employees, five were navy crew members and four were ONGC personnel.
An excerpt from the official response received from Afcons, who chartered the P 305, said that “79% (52 of 66 families) have already received ex gratia payments” and “a corpus of Rs 12 crore has been disbursed until now”. Afcons also paid Rs 1 lakh each to survivors from P305. It also runs an education assistance program for children of victims.
The owner of the Varaprada tug, Rajesh Shahi of Glory Shipping, said: “We have paid nine people and we will pay two others whose pay is blocked due to court issues. We each paid a sum between Rs 22 lakh and Rs 40 lakh depending on their position. The two have yet to be paid, as they approached the police and obtained an FIR filed against the company.
Manoj Yadav of the Forward Seamen Union of India said he approached the Bombay High Court to seek compensation of Rs 1 crore for the relatives of each deceased and Rs 20 lakh each for the injured.