At least six people were killed and 10 others injured in a major blast that took place during the destruction of unserviceable ordnance at a field range near the Central Ammunition Depot (CAD) in Pulgaon in Wardha district of Maharashtra. The incident took place at around 7 am Tuesday after the ammunition was delivered in Pulgaon for controlled distruction from an Ordnance Factory in Khamaria near Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh.
The deceased were identified as Rajkumar Bhowte, 23, Prabhakar Ramdas Wankhede, 46, Pravin Prakash Munjewar, 25, Vilas Lakshmanrao Pachare, 40, and Narayan Pachare, 55—a nephew-uncle duo from Sonegaon—and staffer Udayveer Singh from OF, Jabalpur.
Speaking to The Indian Express, KMM Prasanna, the Inspector General of Police for Nagpur range, confirmed that six persons were killed and 10 others injured. “Of the 10, the nature of injuries of the four is serious but they are said to be out of danger. The injuries of six others are not serious. All are being treated at a hospital in Sawangi area in Wardha.”
Prasanna added, “At this stage, we have filed a case of accidental death, pending probe into the cause. A thorough inquiry will be conducted and legal action will be initiated accordingly.”
A defence official, meanwhile, explained: “As the Ordnance Factory in Khamaria does not have the adequate facility needed for controlled distraction, it was brought to a demolition near the CAD, where it is generally done. The primary information suggests that the accident took place during this process.”
Spread over several acres, the site was barricaded last year as people from nearby villages used to visit it to collect scrap iron and brass remnants of the destroyed explosives. The site, according to an official of CAD, is a common blasting site for various defence establishments.
The Wardha District Collector said there was no threat or danger of fire spreading as the dismantling site is outside the CAD depot.
Sonegaon villagers told The Indian Express that two contractors from Pulgaon, Ashok and Shankar Chandak, hire villagers to unload the blast material and lower it into 12 pits, where the OF staffers carry out the blast. “But this blast occurred as soon as one of the boxes was unloaded from the truck,” said Vijay Sahare, who claims he was standing a little away from the truck, said.
Rameshwar Badhiye, another eyewitness, said, “The blast was so powerful that it was heard some ten kilometres away.”
Asked how the whole operation is carried out, the two explained, “Earlier, the CAD people were doing it themselves by engaging us. Since the past few years, they have given the work to the Chandaks and we work for the Chandaks now.”
“They pay us Rs 200 per day. After the blast, the Chandaks take away a major part of the scrap and leave some for us. We earn around Rs 1,000 from this in any given day, which we share among ourselves,” they added.
According to Sahare, every box of destroyed ammunition yields about 2.75 quintals of brass and three quintals of iron.
The duo said one box contains 61 landmines. One vehicle contains more than 60 suck boxes.
The Indian Express tried to contact Shankar Chandak but he couldn’t be reached.
It may be recalled that in May 2016, in a major fire inside the CAD Pulgaon campus, 17 persons including two Army officers and 15 Defence Security Corps personnel were killed and 19 others injured.