While a magisterial probe has been ordered into the Batala cracker factory blast that claimed 23 lives, a case lodged in connection with a similar incident that took place two years ago is yet to reach a conclusion after the main accused were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Harpal Singh Cheema, leader of opposition in the state Assembly, said, “Yet another accident happened in Batala claiming more lives. Two years ago, seven persons had died in a cracker blast incident. This shows how serious the authorities are about preventing such accidents. Only after such incidents are probes ordered.”
On September 19, 2017, seven workers had died in a blast in a godown storing crackers in Sularghrat area of Sangrur district, which falls in Dirba constituency, from where Cheema is MLA.
The incident had taken place in a double-storey building in Sularghrat village which was stashed with crackers for festival season. The building had been damaged completely. Kala Singh, a resident of the area, said, “Due to the impact of the explosion, a nearby gurdwara also suffered damage, but till date, no repair work has been done.”
Five persons — Gurpair Singh, Karamjit Singh, Gursharan Singh, Bhupinder Singh and Gursewak Singh — had died on the spot while two others — Avtar Singh and Dhanpat Singh — had died during treatment.
After the incident, godown owners Gandhi Ram and his son Pardeep Gandhi were arrested. They were booked under the Explosives Act, the Explosive Substances Act as well as for culpable homicide etc. However, they were acquitted in March 2018 by the court of additional sessions judge, Sangrur, due to lack of evidence.
“Despite the fact that they had no license to store crackers at the site, they were acquitted. This shows how serious our police is as they failed to produce evidence in the case. The witnesses had also turned hostile. The government needs to learn some lessons from such incidents which are happening year after year,” said Cheema.
A few months before that, on June 13, 2017, another blast had taken place in a different cracker unit in Sunam, Sangrur district. One person had died while 28 were injured. Nearby homes had also been damaged. A legal case between the owner of the godown and the power corporation is still going on to find out who was at fault.
Sunam MLA Aman Arora said, “The owner is roaming free and is fighting a legal case. The government needs to learn from past incidents rather than ordering inquiries and later forgetting about them.”