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Bihar: Faulty Boiler, Negligent Management Behind Blast That Killed 7 Workers and Injured 10

The factory management has been accused of neglecting the workers' complaints about the faulty boiler and also failed to obtain a no-objection certificate from the district fire department.
Bihar: Faulty Boiler, Negligent Management Behind Blast That Killed 7 Workers and Injured 10

Image Courtesy: The Quint

Bihar: A faulty boiler, lack of timely inspection, and negligence of management caused a boiler blast at a noodle factory in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar that killed at least seven workers and left ten others injured on Sunday. Close relatives of the deceased workers and a few of those who sustained minor injuries in the blast claimed a day after the incident that the factory manager and owner have ignored repeated requests of the staff to inspect problems with the boiler and repair it even though it posed risks to the workers.

The incident has exposed the factory management’s apathy towards workers safety. There was apparently no engineer for the maintenance of the boiler in the factory and the operator was responsible for its maintenance, according to the kin of the victims who spoke to Newsclick.

The noodle factory also failed to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the district fire department for operation and was running without the NOC, district official Gautam Kumar told Newsclick.

“There was a serious problem as the boiler was leaking for over past six months. Several workers have requested factory manager Uday Shankar and others time and again to repair it but they ignored it. Despite a faulty boiler, the workers were forced to work day and night. This resulted in the boiler blast,” alleged Pintu Kumar, cousin of Sandip Kumar who was one of the seven workers killed in the accident.

Pintu told Newsclick that if the management had paid heed to the workers' request and repaired the boiler, then this incident could have been avoided and the workers’ lives saved.

One of the factory workers, Pankaj Kumar, who sustained minor injuries in the blast, said that the management hardly paid attention to their demand for repairing the boiler. “Our fear came true as the blast cost the lives of workers,” he said.

According to another worker, Sangeeta Devi, the safety valves of the boiler were not working after the steam pressure increased. She said she had informed the management that the steam pressure was increasing in the boiler in recent days but they did not take it seriously. “As no repair was made by the management, boiler blast happened,” she alleged.

In the noodle factory, Anshul Snacks and Beverage Private Limited, situated in the industrial area of Bela Phase-2 under Bela police station in Muzaffarpur, the boiled exploded on Sunday morning. It not only completely destroyed the major portion of the factory, but it also damaged the part of the adjacent Dharti Agro Industry, in which two labourers were seriously injured.

Injured workers Vivek and Satyam Kumar said more workers could have been killed in the boiler blast if it did not happen on a Sunday. “It was not a working day, only 25 workers were in the factory in place of the normal number of more than 200 on any working day. The factory was running in two shifts in view of the high demand for its products across the state,” they said.

Interestingly, the noodle factory’s boiler that exploded was given the fitness certificate for one year in May 2021 by boiler inspector K P Singh. In his inspection report, Singh had stated that the boiler was in good condition and could be used for one year. But the boiler exploded eight months after being given the fitness certificate.

All the injured workers were admitted to the government-run Shrikrishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur town. Most of them are under treatment and their conditions are improving.

A group of five youth from a nearby village who rescued the injured workers said the intensity of the blast was so severe that it damaged the windows and glass doors of houses nearby and the sound was heard from up to 2 km distance. 

The noodle factory completely collapsed due to the explosion. The entire factory premise is now filled with rubble. ‘“Parts of workers’ bodies were scattered all around and those seriously injured were bleeding continuously when a group of local villagers reached there after the blast. There was blood all around,” Md Sahadat, one of the members of the group, said.

After Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered a high-level probe into the boiler blast in which seven were killed, the local police have lodged an FIR against seven people including the factory’s owner Vikas Modi, his wife Sweta Modi, business partner Vikram Modi, factory manager Uday Shankar, and supervisor Rahul Kumar, the boiler operator, and a technician. So far, no arrest has been made as the named accused were reportedly absconding soon after the blast.

Police officials of Bela police station said the FIR was lodged against the accused under Sections 336, 336, 338, 287, 285, 427, 308, 304, and 34 of the IPC. Muzaffarpur Senior Superintendent of Police, Jayantkant said the police have been probing into the case following the registration of the FIR on the basis of the statement of a district official of the industry department.

The state government has announced an ex gratia of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of the victims of the blast. Bihar Labour Minister Jeevesh Mishra on Monday met the injured workers at the SKMCH and assured them of proper treatment and adequate compensation, including to those killed. Mishra said action would be taken against those found responsible for the negligence that appeared to have caused the boiler blast.

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