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Use of banned chemical led to Kerala temple tragedy

Use of banned chemical led to Kerala temple tragedy
Gross violation of norms and use of banned chemicals led to the Puttingal tragedy, a top explosives official said on Monday  as a case of attempt to murder was filed against six persons including temple officials while the Kerala High Court will hear on Tuesday the plea for a ban on cracker bursting and fireworks display in temple functions.

Tales of horror continued to pour in as the death toll in fireworks display in Puttingal Devi temple early on Sunday morning that went awry rose to 109 while more than 300 people were being treated for injuries.

A case has been registered against six persons, including members of temple managing committee under Section 307 of the IPC (attempt to murder), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of IPC and under section 4 of Explosives Substances Act.

Besides the members of the temple managing committee, case was also registered against assistants of contractors who held the ‘competitive’ pyrotechnic display, despite a ban on it by the district administration. A crime branch probe also began on Monday into the fireworks tragedy. Sudarshan Kamal, Chief Controller of Explosives, Nagpur, deputed by the Centre to take stock of the situation, told reporters after a visit to the site on Monday that there were gross violations of norms and basic precautions and a ban order were ignored.

“There seems to have been a gross violation of explosives norms”, said Kamal, who in charge of monitoring use, storage and licensing of explosives.

“We have come here for investigation on the explosives used for the display”, he said, adding banned chemicals were used by the suppliers, who manufactured the crackers and conducted the display. “Basic precautions had been ignored”, he said. Meanwhile, at least 100 kg of explosive materials have been seized from a storehouse at nearby Attingal, police said.

Besides two cars with some raw materials used for crackers were also recovered by police. Earlier, the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages about 1,255 temples in the state, said it was not for a complete ban on such fireworks displays.

TDB President Prayar Gopalakrishnan said the board was against banning pyrotechnics during temple festivals as they were part of rituals, but added they should be staged as per restrictions of government and court orders with sufficient safety measures.

Amid conflicting reports on how the fireworks display was held despite the ban, Kollam District Collector A Shainamol claimed she had denied permission for the fireworks display and said there was no pressure on her to grant or deny permission for this.

“We had issued clear directions to police to ensure that the fireworks programme is not held. I just did my job. There was no pressure on me. Granting or denying permission requires certain procedures. We have sought reports,” she said. 

Blatant violation of safety norms
  •   Death toll climbs to 109
  •   Six booked for attempt to murder
  •   HC to hear plea on banning firecrackers today
  •   Temple board says no banning firecrackers in temple festivals
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