TN: Fireworks Factory Blasts Surge Ahead of Diwali
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: PTI
In and around Sivakasi city in Virudhunagar district in southern Tamil Nadu, there are several firecracker and match-making factories. With the festival of Diwali less than a month away, work is going on day and night to increase production.
In this context, on Tuesday, a sudden fire in a private firecracker factory near Sivakasi killed 13 people, including 11 women workers. Five of them were charred to death on the spot. This was in the Kanishkar firecracker unit in Rengapalayam village, owned by R Sundaramoorthy.
In another incident a few kilometres away, a 60-year-old worker was charred to death in a blast at a firecracker-making unit.
The mishaps come just a week after 12 people died in an explosion at a firecracker manufacturing unit in Ariyalur district near Tiruchirapalli.
It is noteworthy that 54 people have lost their lives in a total of 32 firecracker factory explosions in Virudhunagar district from 2018 to 2021.
WHY SUCH REPEATED EXPLOSIONS?
The explosion at Kanishkar factory was set off by sparks from crackers being tested on the road, which spread to the cracker shop and the illegal working sheds of the unit behind it, reported the police.
As per norms, the testing is not supposed to happen at the production site. Accidents occur when the rules are violated to produce large quantities of firecrackers in a short period.
Reportedly, there was a problem controlling the fire at the Kanishkar factory due to the large number of crackers stored in one room. The fire department fought for more than 2 hours and brought the fire under control. Increased stock of firecrackers in godowns is another cause of accidents.
Another cause for repeated accidents is the increased number of people employed, above the sanctioned strength, in such units.
BBC Tamil reported that the joined crackers known as saravedi or lari, banned by the Supreme Court, were manufactured in the Kanishkar factory.
PN Deva, secretary of CITU, Virudhunagar, in his statement, expressed condolences to the family of the deceased and said, "Such tragic accidents take place due to the constant non-compliance of safety rules by the firecracker factory managements. It goes without saying that the workers who died were almost murdered."
LABOUR DEPARTMENT INTERVENES
The revenue, police, fire and explosives control departments are responsible for monitoring and regulating fireworks factories. There is a demand from all sections for the authorities to act with extra vigilance.
The Tamil Nadu Labour Department, which drew flak over back-to-back explosions in firecracker factories, will be conducting inspections across the district to crack down on the illegal units.
The state labour minister CV Ganeshan, during a review meeting at Virudhunagar collectorate on Wednesday, pulled up some officials for failing to conduct inspections and crackdown on illegal firecracker units.
The minister also told media persons that stringent action would be taken against officials if such incidents were repeated in the district.
'SOLATIUM NOT ENOUGH'
Virudunagar District Firecracker Matchbox Workers' Union demanded two compensations for the family of the deceased, Rs 10 lakh from the Tamil Nadu government and another Rs 10 lakh from the firecracker factory management.
However, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin announced only a solatium amount of Rs 3 lakh to the kin of the deceased and Rs 1 lakh to those injured.
On Thursday morning, hundreds of kin of the deceased held a spontaneous protest near Srivilliputhur, demanding more compensation. They additionally demanded government employment for a person from each family.
On Wednesday, three people associated with the Kanishkar fire accident were arrested for causing deaths due to negligence. Cases were registered under sections for acting negligently to endanger human lives, causing hurt by endangering life or personal safety, and punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder with relevant provisions of the Indian Explosives Act.
Political parties such as the Congress and CPI(M) have urged the state to take appropriate action to prevent such accidents in future.
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