CHANDIGARH: The Batala firecracker factory where a blast killed 23 people on Wednesday was running illegally and survived a similar blast two years ago in which one person died. However, the local administration was tight-lipped regarding the earlier incident.
As per sources, there were four cracker factories/shops run by the family in the three-storeyed building. Following the death of the original owner Satnam Singh, his four sons Jaspal Singh, Paramjit Singh, Ravi Singh and Harbhajan Singh ran their businesses separately.
Three of them were allegedly running their factories without any licence while the licence of Jaspal which he got from his father was not renewed by the administration.
Inspector-General of Police (Amritsar Range) SPS Parmar said that the license of the firecracker factory was not renewed post its expiry in 2016.
"The factory was running illegally. We cannot say how it was operating at present and any other details can only be shared after the magisterial probe. If we had come to know earlier that it was illegal we would have closed it,’’ said Upinderjit Singh Ghumman, Senior Superintendent of Police of Batala.
Sources said that on January 21, 2017, a similar blast took place in the same factory, in which several shops were ripped apart. One person died and three were injured. At that time, the local administration had ordered a magisterial probe, but nobody knows the fate of that inquiry.
A case was also registered against the owner under Section 304 of the IPC but no action was taken.
A family member who was not at the spot of the blast confirmed the same. He said that in Wednesday's incident, ten of his family members including six cousins, two nephews, the head and owner of the factory were killed.
A lot of explosive material was stored in the house due to the high demand for crackers, he added.
Amandeep Singh Sandhu, a neighbour who lost his 32-year-old sister-in-law in the fire, said, "We have a joint family and I was on the ground floor when I heard this powerful blast. We found both my sister-in-law and my 4-year-old nephew's bodies in the debris,’’ he said.
Due to the high intensity of the blast, buildings in a radius of up to 200 metres were damaged.