At least six people have died and several have been critically injured in a blast at a plastic factory in Malda on 19 November.
Initial reports by the police say that the blast was caused by a technical fault in the heavy machine. A forensic team is investigating at the spot.
However, the incident has taken a political turn with the BJP, alleging that the factory where the blast occurred was being illegally used to make bombs.
The blast at the factory, in the Sujapur areas of Malda district, occurred at around 11 am on Thursday, 19 November.
Local sources tell The Quint that the factory, like many in the area, was used to recycle plastic collected by daily wagers.
The explosion, allegedly due to a faulty machine, brought down a portion of the factory building and causing parts of machines to be flung in various directions.
Till late night on Monday, rescue operations were on as many were feared trapped inside the debris.
Malda SP Alok Rajoriya said that while the exact number of people working in the factory is yet to be determined, local say that there were about 20 workers.
"A 45 horsepower machine suffered a mechanical or other failure. This mechanical fault caused an explosion. We have investigated all material in the spot and we've found that it's a mechanical failure,” said Rajoriya.
BJP Suggests Factory Used to Make Illegal Bombs
Soon after the explosion, politics started simmering over the incident. The BJP alleged that while the police claim that this was a plastic factory, it was being illegally used to make bombs ahead of the 2021 Assembly elections.
“A blast at a plastic factory in Malda district (WB) has killed five people. The incident took place in Sujapur area at 11 am. Though it is said to be a plastic factory but we also hear that bombs were being made here for the Assembly elections. If police investigate properly, they will find out the TMC connection", tweeted BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya.
"This explosion is not a one-off incident. This is happening in every district. There should be investigation into who caused the explosion and how. The truth should come out and the state government investigated. A central agency should look into this,” said BJP Bengal President, Dilip Ghosh.
Adding to the mix was West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
"Anguished at deaths in reported blast that ripped establishment apart at Sujapur area of Malda district. According to SP, five killed & five injured. Time @MamataOfficial to proactively contain illegal bomb making and ensure professional non-partisan investigations @WBPolice,” tweeted Dhankhar.
In order to clarify, the Home Department of the West Bengal government tweeted. But the BJP has not relented.
“The Malda Sujapur plastic factory accident is related to manufacturing process issues and has nothing to do with illegal bomb making, as suggested non-responsibly by some quarters. DM and SP on spot have been reporting to state officers after urgent enquiries and compensation steps have been taken. A senior minister has flown to site and it is time to be factually correct. The government is helping the victims and their families,” said the Home Department in a tweet.
13-Year-Old Son of Migrant Worker Among Those Killed; Joined Factory Because School Was Shut
According to initial reports, one of the six people to have lost their lives is a thirteen-year-old boy who recently started working at the factory.
The boy, Ajijul Rahman, a student of Class 7, had started working after his school shut down due to the coronavirus.
Ajijul's father, a daily wage labourer, who was working in Mumbai as the lockdown was announced, was stuck in the city without work for two months.
"It is during that time that he told me that he will start working. He said that his father was out of work and was moving from city to city after the lockdown. If he works, he'd be able to help the family", said Ajijul's mother.
"His father earned 200-250 rupees a day. Without work for almost four months, there was acute shortage in the family. They are five brothers, the father was the only working member. Since he wasn't going to school, he said he will work at the factory", said his uncle.
Ajijul's body was taken to the Malda Medical College where his family reached to identify it.
"His body was charred beyond repair. We couldn't recognise him", howled his mother while speaking to The Quint.
The West Bengal government has offered 2 lakh rupees to the kin of the deceased and 50,000 rupees for the treatment of those injured.