Barasat (WB), August 27
At least eight people were killed and scores injured in a blast at an illegal firecrackers factory in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district on Sunday morning, police said.
The explosion took place when people were working at the factory in Nilgunj’s Moshpole within Duttapukur police station limits, around 30km north of Kolkata, they said.
The blast’s impact was so intense that over 50 houses in the neighbourhood were partially damaged and body parts of people were found on terraces of several buildings, a senior police officer said, adding they suspect several people were still stuck under the rubble.
Police said the owner’s son, who was present in the unit, was also killed in the blast. “The matter is under investigation. Guilty will be punished. We are conducting rescue operations now,” the officer told PTI.
Governor Dr CV Ananda Bose, who reached Duttapukur from Kolkata airport after returning to the city after a three-day trip to North Bengal, said he would evaluate the situation after paying a visit to the injured undergoing treatment at Barasat Medical College and Hospital.
“This is very shocking and disturbing. I was in Siliguri earlier in the day where one of our young friends died because of an assault on her modesty. That is very painful. Now, we have this incident. I understand that eight precious lives have been lost. I will make an assessment of the situation later,” Bose said.
A CID bomb squad, personnel of the disaster management department and a contingent of police are at the spot, police said and added locals ransacked the house of one of the owners of the factory following the blast.
Asked whether the factory was also manufacturing bombs under the veil of firecrackers, the officer said the matter should be probed. “We have seized raw materials used for manufacturing firecrackers. Our forensics team is checking and taking details,” he said.
Twelve people were killed in a similar explosion at an illegal firecracker factory in Purba Medinipur district’s Egra in May.
Soon after Sunday’s blast, the TMC and BJP got involved in a war of words with the saffron party demanding a NIA probe while the Trinamool asked the BJP to stop doing “vulture politics.”
Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP alleged that the state has turned into a storehouse of powder kegs. “There is no monitoring of illegal activities by police. These crackers' units are patronised by local TMC leaders,” he alleged.
The party claimed that the factory was running with the support of local MLA and state Food Minister Rathin Ghosh.
BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah demanding a NIA probe into the matter.
Senior BJP leader Dilip Ghosh also demanded a probe by the central agency. “Under the TMC rule, West Bengal has become a hub of bomb-making factory and terror activities and only a NIA probe can bring out the truth.”
BJP state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said last year there has been at least six such blasts in illegal firecracker factories.
“Several people including kids have died in blasts in illegal firecracker factories. These factories were later found to be manufacturing crude bombs. This bomb-making industry is flourishing in Bengal because of the nexus of TMC, goons and police,” he said.
Reacting to BJP's allegations, TMC leader Kunal Ghosh equated the BJP with a “vulture” and said it is a useless political outfit that pursues politics over bodies.
“The BJP should stop doing its vulture politics. They are like vultures - waiting for someone to die so that they can come and maul the carcass. They should stop jumping to conclusions and let police complete the probe,” Ghosh said.
Rubbishing the saffron party’s allegation, state Food Minister Rathin Ghosh alleged that the Indian Secular Front (ISF) is behind the illegal unit.
“I do not think the administration had any information about this illegal factory. I heard that an ISF activist from Murshidabad had rented a property here and was running the illegal unit. I wonder whether they were planning something big,” the minister said.
ISF MLA Naushad Siddiqui alleged that the owner of the factory is a member of the TMC and had full support to run the unit there. “The owner is a TMC man and he had full support to run this illegal factory,” Siddiqui said.
TMC Rajya Sabha MP Santanu Sen told PTI that the state government has formed a SIT (Special Investigation Team), which busted several such illegal fireworks units over the last few months. “If there are some units still functioning illegally, those will also be busted soon,” he said.
Sen said at times action against such firework units also invites the ire of locals as thousands of people depend on it for livelihood. “But we are firm in wiping out the menace of illegal fireworks.”
The chairman of the firecrackers' makers' association ‘Sara Bangla Atash Bazi Unnayan Samity’ Babla Roy said banned high-decibel ‘chocolate bombs’ were being manufactured at the illegal factory.
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