A house in Thana Bisanda in Banda caught on fire on 31 January, 2019, and resulted in the deaths of at least five people. The house, rented from Deshraj Patel in Bisanda, was being used as space for the manufacturing of firecrackers.
Wedding season is on in full swing in the north and in Uttar Pradesh, the festivities often come laced with collateral damage. If it isn’t the firing of guns during the naach girls’ numbers, it’s the more affordable patakas – cheap, even, given how common bad quality firecrackers are in Bundelkhand, resulting in accidents and tragedies.
“He was just fifteen years old,” wailed Prema, the mother of Ramphul, who was one of the victims in the Bisanda fire. Prema was inconsolable. “He helped them make fireworks,” she said, “He only started working there six months ago.”
On paper, the manufacture, storage and sale of fireworks is bound by bureaucratic red tape — potential makers need a license from the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) that is dependent on clearances from the local police, pollution, health and other departments, and have to follow the dos and don’ts outlined by the Explosive Rules (2008). Workers are expected to learn intricate procedures like mixing chemicals and explosives on the job. The illegal manufacturing of fireworks is punishable by a jail term of up to three years and/or a fine of Rs 5000.
But with the demand for firecrackers on a meteoric rise through these months, the supply side is being met through illegal manufacturing – setting up temporary locations, minus any fire checks, such as in Thana Bisanda.
The accident caused severe property damage — the walls and the roof of the house were broken down. Sunita, who runs a paan shop in the neighbourhood, said, “We heard some strange noise that worried us. It was a loud thundering noise that even we could hear despite the fact that we were so far away.”
The Khabar Lahariya reporter, who was herself present at the site of the accident, noted that it was because of the early intervention of the neighbours that the fire was contained and other people from inside the house were rescued by the fire department.
“I didn’t witness the event,” said Bhanmati, who is the owner of house that was destroyed. “When I heard about the fire, I fainted in shock,” she explained, distraught, “I didn’t have any consciousness the whole night. I was woken up the next day.”
Suleman, the father of two victims, did not have too much to say. The crowd that had gathered at the site of the accident, and around him, answered some of the questions directed at him, informing our reporter that most of the workers in the house belonged to the same community. Suleman, jolted out of his shock only when he was asked about his children said, “They were my two eldest sons, 16 and 18 years old.”
When asked about compensations that the officials might have assured him, he replied, “Nothing.”
The police in-charge at the headquarters of Bisanda Police Station however, claimed otherwise. Off-camera he said that the investigation of the accident was already underway. He also assured us that the families who lost their children in this incident will get financial compensation.
Khabar Lahariya is a women-only network of rural reporters from Bundelkhand.
Updated Date: Feb 14, 2019 17:40:32 IST