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Pirangut fire: Owner of industrial firm arrested, charged with culpable homicide

PUNE A day after a fire inside an industrial plant at Pirangut claimed 17 lives, the Pune police, on Tuesday, arrested the owner of the firm, Nikunj Shah, for negligence
PUBLISHED ON JUN 08, 2021 07:50 PM IST

PUNE A day after a fire inside an industrial plant at Pirangut claimed 17 lives, the Pune police, on Tuesday, arrested the owner of the firm, Nikunj Shah, for negligence.

Shah, director at SVS Aqua Technologies, has been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, covered under section 304 of Indian Penal Code (IPC), in the FIR lodged at Paud police station.

The police action came after a probe committee constituted by district collector Rajesh Deshmukh, under sub-divisional magistrate Sandesh Shirke, highlighted several lacunas in its preliminary report, submitted within 24 hours of the incident.

Seventeen workers, including 15 women, were charred to death in a major fire that broke out inside the industrial plant at Urawade village near Pirangut, around 40 kilometres from Pune.

Following the tragedy, Deshmukh constituted a four-member team, headed by Shirke, to inquire into the cause of the fire, along with safety related aspects. The committee found negligence on the part of SVS Technologies on various counts, including no fire-safety mechanism, despite combustible material being produced at the mid-size plant.

The committee highlighted a total of 12 points in its report, accessed by Hindustan Times.

“The firm did not follow norms needed to be adhered to on the industrial estate. This included fire safety, building permission-related norms along with provision of entry-exit points and open spaces needed to be allotted. The committee also found that SVS Technologies did not take necessary precaution, especially as it was producing combustible material like chlorine di-oxide,” said superintendent of police, Abhinav Deshmukh.

The report of the committee will now be part of the investigation against Shah and his firm.

According to eyewitnesses who survived the blaze, there were sparks at a machine used for processing chlorine di-oxide, which the firm was using to make a powder for purifying water. The committee has recorded statements of the eye witnesses, which will now be part of police investigation.

Before his arrest, Shah, after the fire, had denied his company was producing any inflammable material. “The firm is involved in manufacturing chemicals required for purification of water. This chemical is not inflammable, and we suspect a short- circuit as the cause of the incident,” Shah had said on Monday.

The police also ruled out that the company was producing sanitisers, as alleged by relatives of the victims. “Although we found some barrels of sanitisers, it is a small quantity and possibly brought for the use of workers during Covid,” the police said.

Earlier in the day, Maharashtra home minister Dilip Walse-Patil, during his visit to the site of the incident, said that a short circuit did not cause the fire. Meanwhile the administration has revised the death toll in the fire tragedy to 17.

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