A day after the explosion at the Ammunition Factory, Khadki (AFK) on Friday, in which a 33-year-old worker was seriously injured and lost two fingers, around 200 workers from his section protested with a “tool down” and over 500 workers marched towards the general manager’s office demanding strict implementation of General Safety Directives (GSDs). The explosion took place Friday in the F3 section of the factory, where explosives are filled in the the casings of various ammunitions. The worker, identified as Uttam Chaudhary, who was working on the production line of a type of fuse, lost two fingers of his left and hand and sustained injuries on the chest and abdomen due to the blast.
Incidentally, in June this year, two workers were killed in the factory during the transfer of explosives from one place to another. An officer from AFK told The Indian Express, “The workers from the F3 section, which are around 200 in number, alleged that the evidences of the explosion were destroyed by some of the supervisors. They staged a tool down protest, and stopped the work. Over 500 workers, led by union leaders of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh took out a morcha to the office of general manager and demanded strict implementation of General Safety Directives (GSD).” AFK employs over 4,000 workers in several sections.
AFK, which is one of the key units of the Ordnance Factory Board, manufactures cartridges (bullets) for firearms used by security agencies, grenades, mortar shells, mines, rockets and also cartridges for civilian use. Based on the requirements of various forces, targets are given to individual factories. The Indian Express had reported in detail in the past about the disproportionate number of workers in Danger Building, where explosives are handled and the Non Danger Building where procedures before explosive filling are done. Because of the number parity, the administration makes the unskilled workers work in the Danger Building, thus jeopardising their safety.
“There are allegations that though the premises where the accident on Friday took place has space for the storage for two lots of fuses, and each lot has around 60,000 units, the said space stores five lots, thus putting the lives of many workers at grave risk. In an accident in 1994, nine workers were killed. In 2014, one young worker, identified as Tejas Mule, died in yet another explosion, with many getting injured in between. In 2015, one worker lost both eyes, became completely deaf and lost both hands. In June this year, two more were killed. When will this stop? Why doesn’t any supervisor get injured when they are supposed to supervise from close proximity? Because they are never close by. Only workers are at risk and left to die in dangerous situation,” alleged another officer.
He added, “After every accident, the factory inspector issues directives and the factory sends compliance report, but hardly acts on it. Last year, some members of the Ammunition Factory Employees Union had staged a dharna, demanding strict implementation of the GSD, and subsequently disciplinary action was taken against them.”