Batala Blast: Cracker Factory Was Running Illegally, Says Police

Locals claimed in 2017, a blast had taken place in the same factory killing one worker and injuring three others.

2 min read
Rescue works underway after a blast in a fireworks factory at Batala, in Gurdaspur district of Punjab.

The Punjab police on Thursday, 5 September said the cracker factory in which the blast took place here killing 23 people and injuring 27 was "illegal" even as rescue operations continued at the explosion site.

Teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were trying to find out any person still trapped under the debris, officials said.

“The factory was working illegally. I didn’t come to know about it earlier, otherwise it would have been closed”.
Batala Senior Superintendent of Police Opinderjit Singh told media.

"Now we are checking the licences of all the factories in the Batala city," he added.

Meanwhile, tempers ran high at thcivil hospital in Batala where some family members of victims sought action against higher officials for failing to ensure closure of the firecracker factory despite repeated requests.

They also raised slogans against the district administration while seeking registration of a murder case against top officials for allowing the factory to operate illegally from the thickly populated Guru Ram Das colony on the Jalandhar road.

"What inquiry will the government do now...a case of murder should be registered against top officials for allowing the factory to run illegally," one of the protester said.


This Was Not The First Blast in the Factory

Significantly, in 2017, a blast had taken place in the same factory killing one worker and injuring three others, locals said, claiming several complaints were submitted to the district administration in the past for the closure of the factory, but to no avail.

The Punjab government has already ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident.

There were four multi-storey cracker shops in the market after the family business of late Satnam Singh split between his four sons: Jaspal Singh, Paramjit Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Ravil Singh.

All the factory-cum shops except Jaspal Singh’s were operating illegally as no separate licenses were issued to them. Being the eldest of his family, Jaspal was able to use his father’s permit which however had not been renewed by the administration, the police said.

Baljit Singh, a key witness in the blast case and a close aide of the cracker factory, said that the family of Satnam Singh lived in a house behind the shop and stocks of raw material were often hidden in the house.  He said that these were often stocked in bulk quantity before festivals like Dusherra, Gurpurab and Diwali as the crackers were supplied not only to Punjab but Himachal Pradesh as well.

Raghubir Singh Sandhu, president of the Bar Association of Batala, who resides in Guru Ram Das colony (where the factory is located) said that "it is rule of anarchy, my complaints were of no avail... I along with other residents of locality requested the administration to shift this fire cracker factory outside the city after 2017 incident but all in vain". 

After the January 2017 blast, local residents and owners of the factory had came to an agreement to shift the factory outside Batala and only retain offices in the market for general dealing but after few months, the situation remained the same.

(The story has been edited for clarity)

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