MP factory where 11 died has been a site of 2 similar accidents over last decade | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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MP factory where 11 died has been a site of 2 similar accidents over last decade

By, Bhopal/harda
Feb 07, 2024 08:54 AM IST

In 2015, one person was killed and two dozen people injured in a similar accident, and in 2021, four people were killed in another blast

The illegal firecracker factory where there were multiple explosions on Tuesday that left 11 people dead and 174 people injured in Harda in Madhya Pradesh, had seen two similar accidents before in the last decade that had left five people dead, and 24 people injured,officials said. And yet, locals said, there was very little action against the owners of thefactory, ‘Raju Pataka’, started by 54-year-old local businessman Rajesh Agrawal, alias, Raju Agrawal (54), and his brotherSomesh and uncle Pradeep Agrawal.

Explosive material at the site after a blast in a firecracker factory in Harda town, Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday (ANI)
Explosive material at the site after a blast in a firecracker factory in Harda town, Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday (ANI)

The business of selling explosive for making firecrackers was started in 2004 in Bairagarh area of Harda across a two acre area that now has a three floor building. The administration claimed that there are four factories next to each other but only three have licences and one was sealed. But all the activities, from making explosives with chemicals to packaging are going on simultaneously, officials said. It stores both firecrackers and ingredients related to explosives.

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At least three of those godowns were also completely gutted in Tuesday’s accident, officials said.

In 2015, one person was killed and two dozen people injured in a similar accident, and in 2021, four people were killed in another blast.

A former sarpanch of Bairagarh, Dhirendra Saini said, “In April of 2015, one person was killed and two dozen people injured in a similar accident. Earlier, Rajesh Agrawal used to give explosives to locals and in 2015, the explosion took place in the house in Bairagarh. No action was taken against Raju Agrawal. We fought hard and he stopped giving explosives to locals and started making firecrackers in the factory itself. In 2021, three people were killed in another blast in the godown of the factory which was being run illegally on an agricultural land of local farmer Dinesh Sharma.”

“Raju Agrawal and Dinesh Sharma were arrested in 2021 and factory was sealed for a month only. They came out of jail on bail after few days and started the business again, he added. The former sarpanch said, “ In 2023 on Diwali, the factory was seized by the administration but it continued to run without permission.”

Talking to media persons, sub-divisional magistrate KC Parte, who was posted recently in Harda, said, “In 2023, the district administration had raided these premises and found one of the four factory unfit. It was sealed and their licence was cancelled.”

Parte said that when it was first built in Bairagarh, the factory was surrounded by agricultural land. “But the area came under the municipality area ten years ago and a large number of homes were constructed in the narrow lane adjacent to the factory that have also been gutted,” he said.

Saini said that when they first heard the explosions around 10:30 am, the ground beneath them shook, almost like an earthquake. “We ran out of our homes, and in a few minutes there was a raging fire,” he said.

Rajesh Kumar, the owner of a local agricultural produce store—Rishi Agrotech—said that people in the homes outside the factory would allow the use of their premises to store illegal crackers as well. “When the accident took place, those exploded as well,” Kumar said.

Ruksaar Khan who was among those employees inside the factory who escaped with injuries said that when the first explosion took place, everyone inside began rushing to the exit gate. “There are children aged between 12 and 15 who also work as labourers inside and they all started crying. We had only emerged a few metres when there was another massive explosion and we were all injured,” Khan said.

Collector Rishi Garg said, “We are probing the matter and trying to find out if children were employed. There were 150 employees in the factory but it is difficult to say the genders and age as of now.”

Lavina Ghagre, Harda tensildar confirmed that the factory had been in operation for years, and an investigation was conducted some months ago. “It was also sealed. The factory is being operated on leased land, and the owners had moved the High Court against the sealing. But we are investigating how operations began again,” she said.

Abhijeet Shah, Congress MLA from Timarni in Harda alleged there was a nexus between the administration and owners of the factory. “Despite the two blasts before, no action was taken against the owners who ran the factory in a residential area. The FIR should also be filed against officials of the administration who failed to check this,” he said.

“The investigation is going on. The people, responsible for this mishap, will not be spared at any cost,” said Rao Uday Pratap Singh, school education minister, who visited the site after accident.

(With inputs from Manoj Pandey)

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