The Day The State Split Asunder - 57
The Day The State Split Asunder - 5712 mins 169 12 mins 169
On June 1st, 1996; the first shift workers of Godavac Pharma plant called it a day, handing over the tasks to their respective evening shift counterparts. Inside of the plant, near the formulation zone there are around twenty continuous stirred-tank reactors. The chemicals to be mixed in the reactor are introduced from the top with the help of pipes while simultaneously discharging effluents from the bottom.
As per the standard procedures, before introducing the new batch of reagents for different formulations, the reactors must be cleaned thoroughly and flush out all the chemical residues. The supervisor of the morning shift worker forgot to pass on the instructions to his respective evening shift counterpart. As a result of this, without cleaning off the reactors the new batch of chemicals have been added in and the impeller inside started the stirring procedure.
The height of the reactors spanned around three floors. At ground level the team began monitoring the pressure gauges. Under normal running conditions, the inflow rate must equal the outflow rate. But the pointer on the volumetric outflow rate gauge is not commensurable with the inflow gauge. In a snap the pointer on the pressure gauges started moving towards the extreme end and the reactor started making strange sounds. The same was observed across all the remaining reactors.
'Run quickly!' shouted the operator and an alarm was triggered. There were around fifty members working near the reactors at that time. Five were working on the ground floor, the remaining were working on top floors. By the time they could make a flight it was already too late as one of the reactors blasted off with a loud sound shattering the window panes in the plant. The sound was audible for two kilometres. In no time the remaining nineteen reactors exploded. The workers on the ground floor succeeded in moving to the safe lines while those working on the second and third floor couldn't make it out.
The impeller blades flew with a high speed hitting three workers killing them on the spot. In no time fire broke out and around fifteen workers caught fire in the impact. They were running helter-skelter pleading for the help. Twenty of them were seriously injured with ten having lost hands and fingers and few people losing their legs. The fire engines arrived in fifteen minutes and it took them four hours to put off the flames. The press people from the leading newspapers got the information and already started flooding at the company gate but they weren't allowed inside.
Dhyaneshwar reached the spot and examined the entire plant after the flames died down. He came to know that it was seriously a mistake on supervisors part of the morning shift but the thing that concerned him more was that he didn't have the permission to run the formulation plant and if the authorities find it, things will definitely get worse and he may end up in jail.
The primary investigation from the fire department confirmed that the Hydrochloric Acid and Sodium metal residues in the reactor built up the pressure inside the reactor which led to an explosion and the company did not follow any safety guidelines as stipulated in the companies act.
The police subsequently filed a case against Dhyaneshwar and his firm and the plant has been seized temporarily. The Deputy Chief Inspector of Factories set up a special team to ascertain the cause. Dhyaneshwar's fate is now entirely dependent on the report that the special team submits.
The entire executive top level management of the company arrived at the spot except Akella Raghavendra who as a matter of fact never participated in any of the executive committee meetings of the company. He completely confined himself to the non-executive position as he didn't want to deflect from his writing profession.
Raghavendra is a regular column writer for 'Andhra Velugu' magazine and his stories 'Bhagyanagara Kathalu'. Hyderabad was once called by the name 'Bhagyanagaram'. All his writings were well received by the Telugu audience and every month around hundreds of people write appreciation letters to him.
Seated at his own personal library space that he specially designed for himself at the corner of the hall with more than fifty books in the shelves mostly containing the literature books. He was writing an article about having more Venture capitalists for a developing country like India. A week ago he put forward a proposal to Dhyaneshwar about setting up a venture capital firm in Hyderabad. He believed that the only way to tackle the country's growing unemployment is by setting up as many industries as possible but a majority of them lacked the capital funds.
On his table there was a small photograph of his being felicitated by legendary actor turned politician who also served as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, N T Rama Rao popularly known as NTR. He was a great admirer of NTR and also vowed that in case if he is blessed with a son he would name him as 'Akella Taraka Rama Rao', such was his fascination but God didn't give him that opportunity.
'Daddy! You told me that you will come and tell me the story,' little Sanjana came to his desk holding a teddy in her hand.
'Sanju,' Raghavendra glanced at the time on his old solid brass clock that his wife gifted him on their first marriage anniversary. It was already ten and he knew that Sanjana wouldn't go to sleep until he told her a story. He put down his spectacles and pen, rose from his chair and lifted Sanjana into his arms. 'Tell me what story you want to listen to?'
'I want a Tigur story,' she replied in her cute childish tone wrongly pronouncing the word 'tiger'.
'It's not 'tigur', it's 'tiger'.'
'Tiger!' she said, shooting a cute pleasing smile at him with a twinkle in her eyes. He kissed on her cheek and carried her into the bedroom.
Little Sanjana lied down on her bed while her father sat up straight looking down at her and began telling her about the story of a wise cat and tiger.
'So you see Sanjana, the cat had taught everything, except climbing the tree and this one clever act saved him. The same thing applies in our life. Like the cat in this story you should know what to teach and what not to the other person without completely knowing about him/her' he said after narrating the story but Sanjana was already asleep by that time. He kissed her on his forehead and pulled her up so that her neck was above the pillow. He retired back to his desk and resumed writing his article. After he finished writing the article he went to sleep.
Sanjana was everything to him and he loved her more than anyone else in this world. Two years ago his wife died of breast cancer and from then on Sanjana was his entire world. He claimed himself responsible for her mother's death as he couldn't afford the cost of treatment. He wished to give her all the happiness in the world and that's the reason behind going into partnership with Dhyaneshwar.
Six months ago, Raghavendra's editor asked him to write an article about the 'Role of pharma in boosting India's economy'. His good friend Satyanarayana Goswami whom he affectionately calls as Swami, who also works for the same newspaper helped him in getting the passes for the Pharmaceutical Industries Conclave being held in Hyderabad.
It was there at the conference he ran into Dhyaneshwar who was working as a researcher at a bio-technology company in the United States. Dhyaneshwar being the only Telugu person in the conference he naturally got gravitated towards him and decided to publish his interview in the magazine.
The interview was well received by the audience and Dhyaneshwar who was extremely delighted with the article invited Raghavendra to come to his home for lunch. It was then in this second meeting Raghavendra completely opened up about his personal life telling about his parents, his education, his and everything including the ten acres of land that he owned at the outskirts of Choutuppal which has now been declared as a special economic zone dedicated for bio and pharma industries.
In the conference, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh made an announcement that those who wish to set up the pharma or biotechnology companies in the state would get incentives and tax benefits for ten years. Many companies came forward and set up their factories. A year before the price of the lands were so cheap that one could purchase an acre for ten thousand rupees. As the industries started the prices increased drastically and the ten acres of land that Raghavendra owned is now worth ten crores.
Dhyaneshwar was desperately waiting for an opportunity to set up a company and since Raghavendra owns his land in the vicinity of the special economic zone he requested Raghavendra to be his partner in that way he could save crores of rupees to be spent on land acquisition.
Raghavendra at first refused to agree but later on agreed as he wished to give a better life to his one and only child Sanjana. In a week the agreement was made and the foundation was laid. The construction was completed in four months but he never showed any interest in running the business. Instead he opted for a non-executive position in the company's board of directors and continued with his profession in writing articles and publishing stories as he used to do before.
The next morning was a busy day for him as Sanjana's summer vacation was completed. He needs to switch back to his old routine of waking her up, getting her dressed and preparing the lunch. After dropping her at school he was surprised to see his friend Swami's jeep parked outside of his gate and has been waiting for him at his doorstep holding a newspaper in his hand.
'Swami when did you come?' Raghavendra asked.
'I came yesterday. You look so relaxed. Don't you know the news?' Swamiji asked, looking at his friend's casual composure.
'What kind of news? Has the Chief Minister resigned?'
'No! Yesterday a fire accident happened in your company and you still didn't get to know about it?'
'Oh my God! How did it happen? Has anyone got injured?'
'Fifteen employees died and twenty-five were seriously injured,' he said and handed over the newspaper to him. 'You are also one of the board of directors in the company.'
Raghavendra didn't get the time to read the newspaper in the morning as he was busy with Sanjana. He glanced at the headlines and the entire story below it.
'This is really very bad news. Let's go quickly,' Swamiji said.
'Where?' Swamiji asked.
'To the hospital. I want to meet the injured people and also the family members of those who died in the accident.'
Swamiji and Raghavendra got into the jeep. They reached the hospital where the injured workers have been admitted. Outside the families of the deceased workers were crying their hearts out slapping their heads, kneeled on the ground.
Raghavendra approached one of the women who lost her husband. He kneeled on the ground and tried to console her.
'What can I do now? How can me and my kids survive? How can I pay their school fees? How can I bring them up?' She was crying holding both her kids together to her chest. Looking at her pathetic condition everyone around her began crying.
One worker got married recently while another was about to get married the following week. One worker is the only child of his parents and the sole breadwinner.
Raghavendra's own eyes flooded with tears. He never had the idea of the risks involved in running a pharma industry. He wiped his tears and turned to his friend Swamiji, he said, 'Swami, their entire lives have been ruined. No matter how much we try to console them, we can never bring back the lives of their loved one's. The company has to take care of these people. Their children's education and everything. We have to give them financial security. I will discuss with Dhyaneshwar about the compensation.'
'Do you think Dhyaneshwar will do it?' Swamiji asked, his tone reflecting a lack of belief.
'Of course! If I say he will definitely accept it.'
'Raghu! I think the time has come to spill all the beans. I have been warning you right from the day one that I don't feel correct about this Dhyaneshwar's attitude.'
'I don't understand what you are trying to say?'
'Today morning our editor received an anonymous call and they told him not to publish anything about the company and the fire accident. I feel there is something wrong in the company. I know one of the investigative officers who is appointed in the special investigation team. I will try to pull out all the details from them.'
'Swami in case if there's anything illegal with the company, that is going to be the end of my business with Dhyaneshwar.'
'For now let's go home. You also need to pick up Sanjana from school.'
Raghavendra nodded his head and climbed into the jeep. Swamiji dropped his friend at his home and left for his work. By the time he reached home it was 03:30. He picked up his scooter keys and reached the school to pick up Sanjana. He prepared snacks for her and later she went out playing with other kids beside her home.
Raghvendra sat at his desk looking at the books and the papers scattered on his desk. He picked up his pen to write the column story for the magazine but was struggling to write as the hospital cries were still reverberating in his mind. He put his pen down and lied asleep on the bed feeling bad for the workers and their families.
'I don't understand why Dhyaneshwar didn't care to inform me,' he thought.
'Daddy! Daddy!' Sanjana came running into his bedroom. 'Daddy I want chocolate.'
'Dear daddy is not feeling well. I will get it for you tomorrow. Go and watch television or read the story books that I gave you,' he replied weakly rubbing his temples.
She silently walked out and came back to the room after five minutes holding a basin with water in one hand and a cloth on the other hand. She dipped the kerchief in the water basin and placed the cloth on her father's forehead.
'What are you doing?' asked Raghavendra.
'Daddy whenever I am not feeling well you placed the kerchief on my head. Today you are not feeling well and that's why I am placing this cloth on your forehead. You will get well soon!' Sanjana spoke in her soft innocent tone.
In her eyes, Raghavendra could see the immeasurable care and concern that she has for him. He got up and hugged her tightly. 'My Little Angel,' he kissed on her cheek. Her cute little smile instantly soothed his agitated mind and he felt at ease with himself.
'Daddy, today I will tell you the story that my teacher told in school,' she sat on her father's lap.
'The Tenali Rama story daddy.'
'Super!' he said, pulling her cheeks. 'After we complete eating you tell me the story.'
To be continued...