Industrialists feel that they required better treatment at the hands of the State and the Centre.

The industry with an estimated annual turnover of Rs.2,500 crore should be brought under a single umbrella for its regulation.

“We are now under the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation that looks after the safety of the 689 units in and around Sivakasi along with hundreds of petrol pumps in 10 southern districts. For every major issue on licensing, we need to go all the way to Nagpur to meet the Chief Controller of Explosives,” the TANFAMA president, S.S. Vijayakumar said.

Instead the industry wants a separate Department of Fireworks with its headquarters in Sivakasi, which is the hub for cracker industry in the country.

The department should be equipped with adequate manpower that could inspect all the units at frequent intervals that could ensure strict implementation of safety norms.

“We welcome any number of inspections as far as safety is concerned. We too will benefit out of it,” says Mr. Mariappan.

Mr. Vijayakumar says that the industry has been evolving over decades and safety norms had been upgraded time to time.

“We have come out of the stigma of employing child labour. We have complied with the rule of having rubber sheets on the flooring. The workers have been made to wear cotton dresses. Foot mat had been made mandatory in the units,” he says.

Now, the industry wants the Government to lend them a helping hand.

Should not an industry that pays Rs. 750 crore as tax to the State exchequer expect such a facility?: is the question raised by the industrialists.

The action taken by officials is a resultant of the concern to prevent any further loss of life in Sivakasi, says the Virudhunagar District Revenue Officer, R. Raju.

The State Government ordered formation of 11 teams to check safety norms in the units.

“We have been instructed to strictly deal with the cracker units with the only objective of preventing accidents,” he says.

The DRO is also a licensing authority for small-scale cracker units.

He also issues no-objection certificate and licence for supplying sulphur.

Among the penal action are show-cause notices, temporary suspension (for three days) and suspension of licences.

After the Om Sakthi Fireworks Industries accident, the district administration has streamlined the process of enquiry into the accidents.

“For any accident where more number of fatalities is reported, the suspension of license could not be revoked just like that,” he says.

There are some units that have been forced to lock out for nearly six months.

On the illegal units, he says, the administration has been taking action frequently.

“These units are primarily into making fuses. The Sattur MLA, R.B. Udhayakumar has sought the administration’s help in streamlining them. We will study the issue before making any recommendation to the State Government.”

He expects better coordination between the district administration and the PESO in reducing accidents and checking illegal leasing out of units.