Family cries foul as BARC scientists body are handed over

December 31st, 2009 - 12:54 am ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Dec 30 (IANS) As investigators struggled to find the cause of a fire in the country’s premier Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) that killed two scientists, the family members of one of the victims Wednesday have demanded a “thorough probe” into the accident.
“We are shocked at the attitude of the BARC officials though an incident of such a magnitude has taken place. We want a complete inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into it,” Munna Singh, uncle of Umesh Narayan Singh who died in the blaze, told IANS.

A loud explosion followed the fire that had broken out in a room on the third floor of the modular laboratory Tuesday noon when the two junior scientists were present on the premises. Both were killed.

As per preliminary investigations, the fire is suspected to have erupted following a chemical reaction that led to a blast in the laboratory housing analytical instruments.

Grieving over the loss of his nephew as the victim’s body was brought home here late Wednesday, Singh said that usually there would be five or six fellow research students and a senior person present on the premises.

“Why were these two boys alone in the laboratory at the time of the incident? We want answers to these questions as it has national security implications,” he demanded.

His friends have alleged that police and the BARC officials made them run from pillar to post before they finally got Umesh’s body - charred beyond recognition - from the Sir J.J. Hospital’s morgue.

Though police have tentatively ruled out foul play or negligence on the part of BARC, they have sent samples of the victims to the Forensic Sciences Laboratory at Kalina and also taken the DNA samples.

The cause of the fire remains unknown so far even as police and BARC officials spent the entire day in investigations at the complex in Chembur, northeast Mumbai.

Hailing from a humble, lower middleclass family of a former mill worker, Umesh was working in BARC for nearly five years. He was just six months away from completing his doctorate.

“The BARC did not have the courtesy to inform us officially, we learnt only from the media that Umesh is no more,” Umesh’s brother-in-law Uday Pratap Singh told reporters.

The grieving family members of the other victim, Parth P. Beg, 26, also arrived from Kolkata to collect his remains. His family members refused to speak to the media but said that he was doing his research at the BARC for the past 18 months.

Meanwhile, police in Trombay has registered a case of accidental fire and investigations into the cause of the fire are in full swing.

All top BARC officials remained incommunicado throughout the day as the fallout of the incident was being probed - both by the BARC and the police.

However, Chairman of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) Srikumar Banerjee was present in the BARC Wedensday, an official said.

However, there was no danger to the main reactor in the BARC or any other sensitive facilities that could lead to radiation or radioactivity, the spokesman said.

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