Panic over crackdown on illegal explosives led to Chikkaballapur blast

  • The Karnataka Police had begun a state-wide crackdown on illegal explosives after a blast in Shivamogga, chief minister BS Yediyurappa’s home constituency
Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai visited the quarry blast site at Hirenagavalli in Chikkaballapur on Tuesday.(ANI)
Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai visited the quarry blast site at Hirenagavalli in Chikkaballapur on Tuesday.(ANI)
Updated on Feb 24, 2021 09:05 AM IST
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ByArun Dev , Hindustan Times, Bengaluru

Six people were killed while trying to dispose of gelatin sticks at a quarry site in Hirenagavalli village of Karnataka’s Chikkaballapur early on Tuesday.

The government has ordered a CID probe into the blast.

Police said panic over a crackdown on illegal explosives led to the blast, adding that the owners of the Brahama Varshini quarry had employed their workers to dispose of the explosives, even though the workers were not proficient in handling them.

The unscientific way of handling the explosives, where charges and detonators were kept together, led to the explosion, said police officers after the initial investigation.

Also Read: ‘Didn't know what was in bag, says driver who transported explosives

Following a similar blast in Shivamogga, chief minister Yediyurappa’s home constituency, on January 22, police had begun a state-wide crackdown on illegal explosives. An investigation by the Internal Security Division (ISD) led to the arrest of a dealer of explosives, who led the police to Brahma Varshini quarry, a source in the ISD said.

“It began with the arrest of one Shivakumar in Chintamani (in Chikkaballapur) for storing explosives illegally in his house. He was employed with a quarry in the same place. During the interrogation, he revealed the name of his supplier – Gangoji Rao,” the officer said.

Within days, police tracked down Gangoji Rao, who is a licensed explosive dealer. However, he had illegally supplied explosives to several quarries, including Brahma Varshini, in and around Chikkaballapur.

Based on the information from the ISD, the local police conducted a surprise raid on the quarry on February 7. After they found violations in the procurement and storage of explosives, the quarry was shut down.

“We suspect that fearing further investigation and raids, the owners of the quarry wanted to remove the explosives from the location, and it was done in the most unscientific way. The experts we spoke with said that workers had kept the charges and detonators together. Even cell phone signal could have led to the blast,” he added.

Sources said the raid on the Brahma Varshini was part of many raids conducted by the police over a month.

ADGP Bhaskar Rao, who was heading the ISD raids, said a total of 20 cases involving illegal explosives were registered since February this year, including 14 by the ISD. “We found several violations such as people without licences dealing explosives, non-scientific methods of storing...We have seized over 100 detonators...,” the officer added

Illegal quarrying in Chikkaballapur

After studying satellite images sourced from the National Remote Sensing Centre, the Department of Mines and Geology (DMG) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) had identified 532 illegal quarries in the Chikkaballapur district in 2019.

The findings were mentioned in the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report as well, in which DMG was asked to take action against these illegal quarries. According to the report, at least 11.12 crore metric tonnes of specified and unspecified minerals were illegally extracted, causing loss of 223.25 crore to the state.

The larger picture

Officials of DMG said there could be more than 2,000 illegal quarries across Karnataka. “There are around 450 licences issued for decorative stone quarries and 300 stone quarries. But there are way more quarries, we estimate it to be around 2,000,” said an official on the condition of anonymity.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Arun Dev is an Assistant Editor with the Karnataka bureau of Hindustan Times. A journalist for over 10 years, he has written extensively on crime and politics.

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