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Cauldron of apathy claims lives yet again

Cauldron of apathy claims lives yet again
Highlights

The blast at a cracker manufacturing unit in Warangal in Telangana which killed more than 10 workers and injured several others on Wednesday should serve as a wake-up call to the authorities that unless they take stringent measures, workers will continue to perish in similar tragedies. The blast has a familiar ring.  A fire, an explosion, a little later discovery of charred bodies and wails of the

The blast at a cracker manufacturing unit in Warangal in Telangana which killed more than 10 workers and injured several others on Wednesday should serve as a wake-up call to the authorities that unless they take stringent measures, workers will continue to perish in similar tragedies. The blast has a familiar ring. A fire, an explosion, a little later discovery of charred bodies and wails of the victims’ relations. The tragedy took place at Bhadrakali Fireworks which had no licence.

The fire, the cause of which is not yet known, triggered the explosion which could be heard far and beyond Warangal. The police expect the number of casualties to go up as those injured are in critical condition. The roof which was spread over 2,000 square yards blew up and its walls collapsed. Everything in the godown was reduced to cinders. Fire tenders had to battle for three hours to bring the flames under control. The workers used to test the crackers by firing them in front of the godown usually and this could have set the entire godown on fire, some eyewitnesses say, which, if true, is a very dangerous practice.

In the recent memory, the worst firecracker blast that took place was in Sivakasi in September 2012 where 40 workers were charred to death. In October 18, 2017, a similar blast killed eight workers in Bahabalapur in Balasore in Odisha. More recently, on April 7 this year, four persons died in Sivakasi again. These are only a few of the tragedies that struck the country.

Usually, when accidents of this nature happen, the inevitable blame game begins, each department blaming the other, and, finally, no one gets to hear who was held responsible for the tragedy. The governments have not been able to fix accountability, leave alone culpability. As the industry is highly hazardous, there are several regulations governing them but there seems to be no one to enforce them.

There is a clear ban on employing children in such enterprise, but the practice continues. One who wants to set up a cracker unit needs to get several clearances. In most of the cases, the rules are followed only in breach. In Warangal too, the accident took place at the cracker unit whose licence had expired in 2017 and was never renewed subsequently. More often than not, one gets suspicious as to how these unauthorised units are functioning even though law enforcement authorities prowl around them continuously. The answer is not very difficult to find and that is where the safety of the workers is being compromised.

The government would be doing a great service to the people and to the workers employed in cracker manufacturing units if it puts in place a mechanism by means of which whenever such incidents take place, it not only fixes accountability but also culpability of those who were responsible and prosecute them. Mere reflex actions of closing down other units and dragging on the inquiry for months, by which time everyone would lose interest, would only be laying the ground for more number of such mishaps.

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