JHABUA: The tribal-dominated Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh could virtually be sitting on powder keg as a large number of people are reportedly in possession of licenses to stockpile mining explosives and the massive explosion at Petlawad town that left 89 persons dead and over 100 injured might bear testimony to this.
District collector Aruna Gupta, when asked about if many such stockpiles of explosive used for mining purposes, digging wells and other works were being housed in public places, feigned ignorance but promised action. "Right now, our priority is to provide relief to the victims of yesterday's tragedy. We will definitely find out the details of the explosives stores and if we find something amiss, we will act accordingly," she said today.
The collector said she did not have the exact figures of people holding licenses for storing explosives which are typically used to dig wells in rocky terrain of the district. According to Channalal Gehlot (55), a resident of Bamniya village close to Petlawad town, he had lodged a complaint with former Jhabua Collector B Chandreshkar regarding the illegal storage of explosives by Rajendra Kasawa in his shop in public area close to new bus stand on October 13 last year.
"Had the district administration taken a note of Kasawa's explosives' stockpile in the public area in time following my complaint, yesterday's tragedy would not have taken place," he told reporters here today. When contacted, Chandreshkar, who is now Collector of Ratlam district, said he could not recall any such complaint. "I am not aware of any such complaint regarding Kasawa during my stint as Jhabua collector," Chandreshkar told PTI over phone.
Gupta also said she was unaware of any such complaint by Gehlot. "It has not come to my knowledge yet," she said. Meanwhile, district Superintendent of Police (SP) G G Pandey said he would crosscheck whether Kasawa had been booked by Raipura police of the district for illegally storing explosives for mining in 1988 as well. "As of now, I am not aware of this, but I will get it checked," the SP said, adding that no case has been registered against Kasawa in the last 10 years.
Kasawa, who allegedly had BJP links, is evading arrest even as police carried out searches at some places to nab him. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who faced angry protests by locals near the blast site said, "the state government has launched a drive to ensure that the explosives for mining works are not stored in public areas."