Quarry blast: Many questions remain

The blast at the quarry site at Hunasodu, near Shivamogga, that claimed five lives on Thursday night, has left many questions that a high-level investigation has to find answers for.

Shivamogga district administration has maintained that the blast occurred in a licensed stone crushing unit. It is, however, not clear if the licence holder had clearance to stock explosives in a large scale and conduct blasts. K.S. Eshwarappa, Minister in charge of the district, and senior officers of the district, said that government would probe illegalities, if any.

No record of workers?

Till late in the evening on Friday, there was no official confirmation from the administration about the identity of the deceased. Officers told the media that investigation was still on, which indicated that those running the quarry did not maintain records of workers they hired on different shifts.

The magnitude of the blast clearly showed that the quarry owner had brought huge quantity of explosives to the site, which is very close to residential areas of Shivamogga city.

According to officers “about 10 or 12 people” were working at the site and only five were on the night shift. However, nobody at the site had any idea where the remaining workers were on Friday. The local villagers said that the employer had taken them to a “safe place”.

Though the Deputy Commissioner said the crushing unit was located in a “safe zone”, environmentalists find fault with the government for allowing quarry activities close to residential localities. “The quarry is hardly a couple of kilometres away from the city. Moreover, two major reservoirs are also close by. When people in the neighbouring districts also have experienced tremors because of the blast, imagine the risk the people are exposed to,” said Shashi Sampalli, an environmentalist.

Opposition leaders blamed the administration’s “negligence” for the incident. The former MLA K.B. Prasanna Kumar blamed Mr. Eshwarappa for the incident. “He is not allowing officers to act as per the law,” he said, suggesting that vested political interests were at play. He sought to know how a truck with explosives could pass through several check-posts and reach the site.

The former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said politically influential people, cutting across parties, were involved in illegal quarrying and there should be a systemic change. “Honest officers are threatened and not allowed to legally regulate them,” he said.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 5:40:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/quarry-blast-many-questions-remain/article33638406.ece

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