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Pune firm owner arrested after 17 die in factory fire

Pune: A day after a major fire inside a local industrial plant at Pirangut claimed 17 lives, Pune police on Tuesday arrested owner of the firm Nikunj Shah for negligence
PUBLISHED ON JUN 09, 2021 12:12 AM IST

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

In the FIR lodged at Paud police station, 39-year-old Shah, one of the directors of SVS Aqua Technologies, has been booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Shah is among the three partners in the firm with other two being his father and brother, who live abroad at present.

Shah was arrested following the probe committee constituted by Pune district collector Rajesh Deshmukh under sub-divisional magistrate Sandesh Shirke highlighted several lacunae in its preliminary report submitted within 24 hours of the incident.

As many as 17 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 km from Pune.

Following the tragedy, Deshmukh constituted a four-member team headed by Shirke to inquire into the cause of fire along with safety related aspects. The committee found negligence on part of SVS Technologies on various counts, including absence of fire safety mechanism despite combustible material being produced at the medium-size plant.

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

“The firm did not follow norms needed to be adhered in the industrial estate. This included fire safety, building permission related norms along with provision of entry-exit point and open space needed to be allotted. The committee also found that SVS Technologies did not take necessary precaution especially when it was producing combustible material like chlorine dioxide,” Pune superintendent of police Abhinav Deshmukh said, adding the report will now be part of the investigation against Shah and his firm.

According to eyewitnesses who survived the blaze, there were sparks in the machine used for processing chlorine dioxide, which the firm was using to make powder used for purifying water. The committee also recorded statements of the eyewitnesses, which will also part of police investigation.

Before his arrest, Shah 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.

Police also ruled out that the company was producing sanitisers, as alleged by relatives of victims. “Although we found some barrels of sanitisers, but they were in small quantity and possibly brought for the use of workers during Covid-19,” police said.

Earlier in the day, Maharashtra home minister Dilip Walse-Patil visited Pune and ruled out short circuit as the cause of fire. Meanwhile, the administration revised the death toll in the fire tragedy to 17.

“Due to the blast inside, some bodies were found in parts… Initially it seemed like there were 18 victims. However, we have cross checked with company officials and found only 17 missing. Everyone else is accounted for. Therefore, the death toll is 17,” police said.

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