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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

With illegal cracker units thriving, Ludhiana sitting on tinderbox

Areas including, Peeru Banda, Meena Bazar, Gur Mandi, Daresi and Field Gunj, are a hub to illegal firecracker makers.

cities Updated: Sep 09, 2019 18:48 IST
Mohit Khanna
Mohit Khanna
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
The explosion in a Batala firecracker factory on Wednesday afternoon which claimed 23 lives has yet again raised a red flag on how cracker manufactures and sellers are thriving right under the nose of administration.
The explosion in a Batala firecracker factory on Wednesday afternoon which claimed 23 lives has yet again raised a red flag on how cracker manufactures and sellers are thriving right under the nose of administration. (Sameer Sehgal/HT)
         

The explosion in a Batala firecracker factory on Wednesday afternoon which claimed 23 lives has yet again raised a red flag on how cracker manufactures and sellers are thriving right under the nose of administration. The scenario is not any different in Ludhiana, with areas including, Peeru Banda and Meena Bazar, Gur Mandi, Daresi and Field Gunj literally sitting on a powder keg.

Peeru Banda which was previously (2007) a victim to a firecracker factory explosion seems too stubborn to learn the lesson. A visit to the area revealed a huge nexus of illegal cracker markets here.

The illegal cracker units located in the dingy locality of Street Number 2, on the backside of a crematorium in Peeru Banda, have stopped manufacturing crackers since the Batala explosion.

“We have shifted the material as we do not want to invite any trouble. We will start the process again near Dashera,” said a worker identified as Bada. 

Meanwhile, president of cracker association of the city, Ashok Thapar, said, “All the association members have been following the rules.” Thapar said, “We are aware about the mushrooming of illegal cracker makers in Peeru Bandi area. The administration should take strict action against such people who are risking the life of others.”

One of the locals pleading anonymity said, “A shop in Meena Bazar area still sells crackers illegally.”

At Meena Bazar, the man who is involved in illegal sale of fire crackers, maintained that he brings the material for the fireworks from a godown in Sunder Nagar and Kohara.

 “Following the explosion, the cops have launched a crackdown here. We have been asked to deal with the leftover stock,” said the man. 

“Buying crackers here is not easy as the illegal sellers only do trade with the people they are familiar with or those who visit their shops with a reference,” said Suresh Jain, a shopkeeper in Gur Mandi.  

Police commissioner Sukhchain Singh Gill said, “All the station house officers (SHOs) have been ordered to conduct a survey in their respective areas and submit a report of the people who have been illegally stocking and manufacturing firecrackers.”

“The SHOs have also been asked to ensure that residents are not stocking firecrackers,” he said. 

TWO YEARS ON, NO FIRE AUDIT

It has been over two years since the then local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu had announced a fire safety audit of properties here after a plastic factory blaze in 2017 claimed 16 lives, including nine firefighters. The audit is yet to finish. Thousands of factories and commercial units in Ludhiana are functioning without a no-objection certificates (NOCs). Though the process was initiated in March 2018, it was suspended after a month.

At that time, the fire brigade and Ludhiana municipal corporation (MC) officials had claimed that all buildings, including commercial and industrial, will be inspected under the survey and corrective steps will be taken accordingly. The audit team was also supposed to check how many units had been illegally storing highly inflammable material but the survey is still in doldrums.

NOT NEW TO TRAGEDY

In 2007, an explosion ripped through a firecracker manufacturing unit in Peeru Banda. The incident claimed a firecracker maker’s life, leaving his wife and son badly injured. The deceased was identified Satnam Singh.

Despite the incident, there seems to be no end to the menace here. Also, the officials from police department, civil administration and industries department have turned a blind eye to the flourishing business of making illegal firecrackers.The authorities wake up from the slumber only when such an incident occurs. Even though it is a common knowledge that firecrackers are being manufactured in almost every house here, the administration has not made any effort to check it. Under the Fire Explosives Act, the manufacturing or storing of explosives is banned in residential areas. The colony is a residential area and is densely populated.

First Published: Sep 05, 2019 23:04 IST

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