The suspension of the licence of Om Sakthi Fireworks Industries at Mudalipatti near here by officials of the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) on September 4 was officially communicated to the Virudhunagar Collector, T.N. Hariharan, and the Superintendent of Police, Najmul Hoda, only hours after the gory fire accident that claimed 38 lives took place on Wednesday.
Official sources here said the Collector’s office received the copy of a report listing the violations and a copy of the order, both dated September 4, through fax at 6.03 p.m. on September 5, five hours after the accident took place. The report signed by the Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives, Sivakasi, B. Rengasamy, was addressed to Messrs. Om Sakthi Fireworks Industries and a copy marked to the Collector and the SP “for further necessary action”.
“How do they expect us (officials in the Collectorate) to take action, when the very information has reached us after all the damage?” an official said. Besides, he wondered why the Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives took seven days to suspend the licence, when he had found gross violations of safety norms as early as August 28.
PESO, under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion of the Union Commerce and Industry Ministry, is the agency that deals with safety issues in the explosives and petroleum sectors. PESO officials told reporters on the day of accident that the suspension report was sent “online” and the licensee, Murugesan, had collected the copy in person from their office. However, they said the information about the suspension was communicated to the Collector and the SP only through post. Claiming that the district administration and the police had ordered permanent closure of many cracker units in the past for serious violations, the district official wondered what stopped PESO officials from ensuring that Om Sakthi Fireworks Industries was sealed immediately since they had detected 40 violations that could endanger the lives of workers. “The major violations said to have been detected are that the unit had employed manpower in excess number and used explosives in excess quantity. Are these violations not good enough to stop work without wasting time?” the official asked.
“If they can send a fax message after the accident took place, why did they initially choose to send the same through post,” the official asked. The faxed copies of reports sent to the Collector and SP had seals of “5 SEP 2012” and “SPEED POST”, suggesting that the report had been sent through Speed Post as claimed by the officials.
When contacted, the Collector said his office received the fax only after the accident took place. “My office received the report only through fax, that too only after the accident. We have not received any other copy of the report through post so far. I cannot comment any further pending enquiry,” he told The Hindu on Friday.
Mr. Najmul Hoda said his office also received the copy only after the Collector had received it, on the night of September 5.
The SP's office also had not received any copy of the report by post till Friday.Meanwhile, the Collector convened on Friday evening a meeting of officials, from various departments to discuss the inspection of all the 700-odd cracker units in the district from Monday.