Report says illegal manufacturing of fireworks common in the State

The ugly accident that claimed three lives in an explosion at an illegal firecracker manufacturing unit near Haripad on Sunday was one waiting to happen.

And if a May 2010 report from the Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives on the State-wide status of such units is any indication, the forthcoming festival season may witness several more such mishaps.

The unit at Haripad was the venue for a similar accident six months back, claiming one life, and another accident 10 years back, claiming two lives.

Following the second accident, a social worker from Thrissur, V.K. Venkitachalam, had lodged a complaint with the Chief Minister's Public Grievance Redressal Cell, pointing out that there were several such illegal units in other parts of the State, particularly Thrissur, venue of the Thrissur Pooram.

The complaint resulted in an order from the CMO to the explosives authority to conduct an inquiry and the report submitted in May this year had given more than adequate indication that such accidents could occur anytime, i.e., if stringent action was not initiated.

The report, submitted by Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives C.R. Surendranathan, points out that “illegal manufacturing of display fireworks was very common in the State”. Though guidelines were issued time to time by the authorities, the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) in this case, efforts to ensure adherence to the same have been minimal.

“While the macro-level administration lies to the PESO, the micro level administration lies to the district administration,” the Deputy Chief Controller notes in his report, stressing that the district police have to be geared up to tackle the menace.

The report also cites existing regulations that before the District Magistrate grants licence to such units, it should be ensured that applicants possess basic knowledge of various chemical ingredients to be used at various stages involved in the manufacturing of fireworks and gun powder; that only common fireworks like Chinese crackers, palm leaf crackers, flower pots, mini ‘atom bombs' etc., can be made; that only one item can be manufactured at a time; and most importantly, that no authorised unit can store more than 15 kg of such substance.

However, as Mr. Venkitachalam points out from his study of the units in the State, few of these guidelines are adhered to. Further, the police register cases against those killed in the accidents, and these cases are closed a month or so after the accident.