Patna: Two weeks after seven workers were killed in a boiler blast at a noodle factory in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar due to management’s negligence, police have failed to arrest five individuals named in the case. Soon after the incident last month, families of the victims, who have demanded the arrest of the accused and stringent punishment, were left disappointed.
District police officials claim that the accused will be arrested soon based on an arrest warrant against them. On Monday, the local court in Muzaffarpur issued an arrest warrant against the accused, including factory owner Vikas Modi, his wife Sweta Modi, a business partner, factory manager Uday Shankar and two supervisors, Rahul Kumar and Digvijay Kumar.
Bela police station officer in charge Kundan Kumar, who is also investigation officer in the case, said that he had informed the court while seeking an arrest warrant against the accused that faulty boiler, lack of timely inspection, and negligence of management caused a boiler blast that claimed lives of seven workers. He said that the boiler blast was not merely an accident.
“It was a clear case of negligence by the factory management. There is enough evidence against the accused of negligence that caused the blast. At present, all accused are absconding,” Kumar said.
According to Kumar, the boiler in charge, Lalan Yadav, one of the victims, had informed the factory owner and manager in writing about problems with the boiler and requested to repair it ahead of the blast. But his request was ignored.
He said that if the accused were not arrested after the arrest warrant, police would request the court to issue an order to paste posters of the accused on their house followed by property attachment if they will not surrender.
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 boiler exploded on December 26 morning. It destroyed a significant portion of the factory and damaged the part of the adjacent Dharti Agro-Industry, in which seven killed and several labourers were seriously injured.
After the boiler blast, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered a high-level probe into the incident. The local police have lodged an FIR against five named accused. Police officials of Bela police station said that FIRs had been 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, has constituted a special investigation team (SIT) that conducted raids at several places in the state and outside to arrest the accused. This SIT has failed to make any arrests so far.
The incident has exposed the factory management’s apathy towards workers’ safety. There was no engineer and operator responsible for the boiler’s upkeep and maintenance, according to the kin of the victims who spoke to NewsClick.
The noodle factory failed to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the district fire department for operation and was running without the NOC. Interestingly the noodle factory’s boiler was given a fitness certificate for one year in May 2021 by boiler inspector KP 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.