Six-month-old Devika gurgles happily under the gaze of her grandmother at the hospital in Bharatpur. A few feet away, her 13-year-old sister Priyanka sits in silence, little knowing their parents are no more.
Ratan Singh and Vijaya Devi were among the 29 who died in the explosion at an illegal cracker factory at in Deeg on Wednesday night.
The two girls aren’t the only ones facing a black Diwali. Their neighbour Manohari has lost his entire family of seven. Another neighbour, Sukha, lost his wife, three kids and a worker employed in his cracker unit. The blasts occurred in his factory, according to the police. Sukha and his nephew Devi Singh have been arrested.
Residents of Darukuta colony, where the tragedy played out, say it was a disaster waiting to happen, considering the unhindered proliferation of illegal cracker factories here. At least one minor blast or fire is reported here every year. “Four people died in a similar blast three years ago. Injuries and deaths are common to these families,” said Rajesh Sharma, a resident.
Locals, he said, had requested the cracker manufacturers many times to stop putting their lives in danger. “But they wouldn’t listen to us.”
Bharatpur SP Rohit Mahajan said: “We never got a complaint from residents about cracker manufacturers operating here. We are now interrogating the eight persons we arrested on Wednesday.”