No safety equipment installed; child labour was employed

There were serious violations of the Explosives Act at a firecracker unit in Ozhugachery village near Kumbakonam where a blast occurred on Friday, the day before Deepavali, R. Venugopal, Controller of Explosives, said on Sunday.

Nine persons were killed and five others suffered injuries in the blast.

Mr .Venugopal, who along with T. R. Thomas, Chief Controller of Explosives, visited the unit in the last two days, said the licence secured by the unit was for keeping 12.5 kg of explosives but what was used was in excess of the limit. Also, the unit employed many more people than the prescribed limit.

There was no 45-meter safety clearance in the unit and no approach road that could be used during emergency. Safety equipment were not installed. “Children were employed which is against law. The age of injured and deceased clearly shows that child labour had been employed”, he said.

Giving more instances, Mr. Venugopal said, “There is a house, 30 meters away from the unit, which is not permitted. Fifty meters away from the unit, there is another manufacturing unit under thatched roof. This is also unauthorised.”

Samples of chemicals and soil on the spot were collected and handed over to police officials for analysis at the forensic laboratory in Chennai. Mr Thomas met two of the injured persons, Senthamilkumar and Anandhi, at the Government Hospital at Kumbakonam. He held discussions with officials and interacted with people of the village too.

Mr. Thomas held a meeting with Thanjavur Collector N.Subbaiyan, District Revenue Officer S. Suresh Kumar, and other officials at the Collectorate on Saturday evening and asked them to revamp the entire licensing procedure.

Magisterial probe

The Collector had been advised to order a magisterial enquiry under section 9A of the Explosives Act, Mr. Venugopal added. Mr Subbaiayan named District Revenue Officer-cum-Additional District Magistrate as the enquiry officer to go into the circumstances behind the explosion. The Collector also ordered the closure of the unit.

He formed three committees comprising the Revenue Divisional Officer, Inspector of Police and Inspector of factories to inspect all firecracker manufacturing units in the district. All 31 cracker-producing units in the Thanjavur district would be inspected for safety measures.