Host of violations across the board at MP factory | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Host of violations across the board at MP factory

By, Bhopal/harda
Feb 08, 2024 05:32 AM IST

Irregularities, including excessive storage of explosives and lack of proper safety measures, were found at the factory in Harda that caught fire, killing 11 people. The factory had previously been inspected and violations were identified, but no corrective action was taken. The factory owners have been arrested.

Irregularities such as storage of explosives well above the permitted limit and absence of proper water tanks were detected at the factory that caught fire in Harda on Tuesday, leaving 11 people dead and over 200 injured, in an inspection conducted by the district administration in September 2023, documents accessed by HT showed on Wednesday.

Smoke rises after blast and fire at a firecracker factory, in Harda. (PTI)
Smoke rises after blast and fire at a firecracker factory, in Harda. (PTI)

No corrective action was taken in the interim period. The copy of the inspection report at the factory in Bairagarh area of Narmadapuram district owned by Rajesh Aggarwal and Somesh Aggarwal, who were arrested on Wednesday, said that the factory flouted several norms under of the Explosives Act, 2008 and operations should be stopped immediately to prevent any loss of life.

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“No documentary evidence has been presented during the investigation regarding the approved map/drawing of the firecracker manufacturing complex. During investigation, it was found that the firecrackers manufactured were kept in the warehouse rooms for drying, which is not in accordance with Specification 3 of the Explosives Act, 2008,” the report said.

The report also said that the explosives found in the factory were much more than permitted and there were crackers such as twine bombs, which was in violation of the licence conditions. The report said the factory was allowed to stock only 15kg of explosives but the accused took two licences for the factory in the same premises. “The stock was many times higher than the prescribed limit,” the report said.

The report said the factory did not have adequate water tanks as prescribed under Rule 13(1) of the Explosives Act, 2008 and did not have a certified foreman to ensure implementation of the safety regulations as prescribed under section 11 (4) of the Act.

The inspecting officer and then sub-divisional magistrate, Ashish Khare, asked the Narmadapuram commissioner in September 2023 that the factory be sealed. But no action was taken.

In September 2022, the factory was inspected by the then collector Rishi Garg and he recommended sealing of the factory and cancellation of the licence under the Explosives Act. However, his recommendation was overturned by the then divisional commissioner Mal Singh on October 14, 2022, documents showed.

Mal Singh refuted the finding and said, “It was an old matter and when it came to me in a public hearing, I referred it to the collector for reconsidering the action.”

On Wednesday, divisional commissioner Pawan Sharma said, “Four licences were issued — two each by the deputy controller of explosives, Bhopal, and two by the local administration — for running cracker factories in the same premises. Two licences given by the local administration had been cancelled and they have asked Bhopal to cancel the other two licences too.”

Former Bairagarh sarpanch Dhirendra Saini said the accused turned the entire area into a “godown” of explosives. “He used to give explosives to locals to manufacture crackers at their homes on contract. This was a reason that when the factory caught fire, there were also explosions in the nearby houses,” she said.

A resident of Bairagarh, Ramkunwar Singh, 65, who lost her son and daughter-in-law, in the incident said, “He [my son] had to take a loan to pay for construction of the house under the housing scheme. My son and daughter-in-law started working at the factory to pay back the loan. The accused lured the locals to work in dangerous conditions.”

Another local resident, Kalabai Beldar, said, “We are getting only 200 for making one thousand thread bombs. On Tuesday, when the blast happened, I was working on the second floor. We rushed towards the main door but the massive explosion left me badly injured.”

Another worker Sandeep Kumar, who has been admitted in a hospital in Harda, explained how the explosion took place. “A spark occurred in the mill where gunpowder was being refined. Later, the explosives caught fire and also a truck loaded with crackers,” he said.

Praveen Soni, a local lawyer, said that in July 2021, a Harda court had convicted factory owner Rajesh Aggarwal and Dinesh Sharma of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for running a firecracker factory where two workers died in a fire in 2015.

In its decision, the court said Aggarwal had got a licence to store a maximum of 15kg of gunpowder but he had many times more gunpowder in his warehouse and the factory.

“The accused came out on bail within one and a half month. Aggarwal was arrested again in November 2021 after a fire claimed three lives. His licence was cancelled but he took another licence in the name of his brother Somesh Agrawal,” said Soni.

On Wednesday, the Aggarwal brothers were arrested again along with Rafique Patel, the local supervisor.

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