CHANDIGARH: A day after the blast at a Batala firecracker factory in Punjab’s Gurdaspur, police have said that the factory was running illegally, without a license. Inspector-General of Police (Amritsar Range) SPS Parmar said that the factory’s license had expired in 2016.
“We cannot say how it [the factory] was operating and other details can only be shared after a magisterial probe. If we had come to know about the factory earlier, we would have closed it. We have registered a fresh case against the owners and few others,’’ said Upinderjit Singh Ghumman, Senior Superintendent of Police of Batala. Sources said that there were four firecracker factories-cum-shops of the same family in the three-storeyed building after the business of the original owner, Satnam Singh, was split between his four sons.
Three of them were running their factories illegally as no licenses were ever issued to them, while the licence of fourth son, Jaspal Singh, was not renewed by the administration. In Wednesday’s blast that killed 23 people, 10 members of the owner’s family also died. A member of the family said that on January 21, 2017, a similar blast took place in the factory in which one worker had died while three others were injured. Buildings in the 200-metre radius were damaged while vehicles in the area were destroyed in the blast, said Amandeep Singh Sandhu, whose house shared a boundary wall with the factory.
He said that the administration conducted raids after the 2017 blast but no action was taken. Sandhu lost his sister-in-law and four-year-old nephew in the Wednesday blast. Meanwhile, tempers ran high as locals raised slogans against the district administration, demanding a murder case be registered against the officials for being in hand in glove with the factory owners.