Tamil Nadu

NGT awards up to ₹20 lakh compensation to victims of fireworks accident

A view of National Green Tribunal. File   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The National Green Tribunal, New Delhi, has awarded higher compensation of up to ₹20 lakh to the victims of a fire accident at Sree Mariyammal Fireworks at Achankulam in Virudhunagar district that killed 27 persons and injured 26 others on February 12.

Holding that negligence or incompetence of officials of different departments of Tamil Nadu Government led to the fire accident, in its order, dated June 11, NGT has directed the State Government to pay the compensation through the Virudhunagar District Magistrate within one month.

Remedial measures
  • NGT has suggested various remedial measures to be executed by specific departments/organisation
  • Strict vigilance to ensure conformity as regards working only in sheds and not in open spaces — PESO, Industrial Safety Department
  • Drone surveillance of various sheds — Licensing authority
  • Permanent closure of sheds found guilty of breaches — Licensing authority
  • Punitive fines of not less than Rs. 50 lakh for violations of license conditions — Licensing authority
  • Public liability insurance for all factories to be made obligatory — District Collector
  • Group insurance providing for higher compensation of not less than ₹5 lakh instead of present ₹50,000 — Licensing authority
  • Existing manpower of regulatory authorities to be strengthened to enable periodical monitoring; ensure better compliance – Centre and State Government
  • Increased automation to avoid physical handling of dangerous chemicals, substances — Industrial entrepreneurs, Department of Industries and Commerce
  • Stringent punishment for certain offences as per Section 9B of Explosive Act 1884 — Legislature
  • Only engagement of certified workers in most hazardous operations in fireworks units — Licensees/employers
  • (*Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) and District Revenue Officer are licensing authorities)

Making Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu responsible for the compliance, it has directed the State Legal Services Authority to provide legal aid to ensure that payment is made to genuine heirs of the deceased and to the injured without undue hassle.

The compensation has been awarded based on the recommendations of an eight-member committee formed by the NGT to look into the cause of the accident, extent of damage and to suggest remedial measures.

The committee was headed by former Judge of Punjab and Haryana and Madras High Courts, Justice K. Kannan.

The State Government had given a compensation of ₹3 lakh to the families of the deceased and ₹1 lakh to the injured from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

However, the NGT has said that the scale of compensation should be ₹20 lakh in respect of each of the deceased and ₹15 lakh to the persons who had sustained burns in excess of 50%.

The compensation should be ₹10 lakh for persons with burn injuries from 25% to 50% and ₹5 lakh for persons who have injuries between 5% and 25%.

Victims who were treated as outpatients and who had minor degree of burns or other forms of simple injuries should be paid ₹2 lakhs.

Findings

The committee had found that leasing out of the unit by the license-holder to five others and allowing more persons than the permitted number of workers and using more quantity of chemicals led to the accident that claimed so many lives and brought down 14 sheds and partially damaged 25 shed.

It was also revealed that no certified foreman, as mandated by Explosives Act, 2008, was present to supervise the safety measures.

While using “incompletely dried” colour pellets for making aerial crackers triggered the fire, leaving chemicals, semi-finished and finished goods strewn all around the unit led to quick spreading of fire and made it impossible for the workers to escape.

Failure of State Government

The NGT has fixed the licensee and the lease-holders responsible for the accident.

However, stating that the activities in the fireworks unit were highly dangerous, the NGT said that those activities were not being regulated by the State Pollution Control Board, Labour Department and the District Magistrate.

“The State has failed to put in appearance or give any explanation for its failure to protect lives of citizens by enforcing the law. The reason may be negligence of the officers concerned or incompetence. In such circumstances, the victims have to be compensated by the State and State can recover the amount from the erring parties,” the order said.


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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 10:41:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/ngt-awards-up-to-20-lakh-compensation-to-victims-of-fireworks-accident/article34877129.ece

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