The death toll in the recent fire accident at a cracker shop located in Attibele, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, has touched 15; 12 of them were burnt alive. The accident occurred when a consignment of crackers procured from Tamil Nadu was being unloaded. On the face of it, this appears to be a case of negligence of the shop-owner, coupled with dereliction of duty on part of the district administration. The government has suspended the tahsildar, police inspector and the regional fire department officer who issued the no-objection certificate for the shop, while the CID has taken over the investigation. The government has also issued a notice to the Deputy Commissioner (DC) and the Superintendent of Police (SP).
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is on record that the DC did not conduct a spot inspection and satisfy himself that all norms were being followed before issuing the licence. The shop is located on the shoulder of a busy national highway and it is unlikely that the SP was unaware that business was being conducted there in violation of the provisions of the Explosives Act and the guidelines issued by the Karnataka government. But for the callousness of these officers and others down the line, 15 innocent lives would not have been lost. The government should have sent a strong message across by first suspending the Deputy Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police.
According to guidelines, shops selling crackers should be located far from commercial and residential spaces. There should be a 6-metre distance between the shops, with ventilation from both sides. The shops should also have proper approach roads for the entry of fire tenders. The Attibele shop was sandwiched between two other commercial establishments and reportedly had not installed even basic safety equipment like fire extinguishers. Besides, according to the Chief Minister, the shop had stocks over and above the permissible limit.
Siddaramaiah has announced that the state will henceforth allow only the sale of green crackers as mandated by the Supreme Court, while the bursting of crackers during public functions and processions will be banned. This is welcome. With Deepavali, the festival of lights, fast approaching, the government will as usual issue a large number of temporary licences across the state for the sale of crackers. Such shops usually come up in close clusters. Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police must personally visit these clusters and ensure that only shops that adhere to all guidelines and safety norms are given approval. The Chief Secretary should strictly monitor the issue until Deepavali so that no more lives are lost due to fire crackers.
(Published 12 October 2023, 20:04 IST)