//NHRC urged to probe Sivakasi cracker unit mishap

NHRC urged to probe Sivakasi cracker unit mishap

Friday March 24 2006 10:20 IST

MADURAI: A fact-finding team, which had probed into the major fire accident in a cracker unit in Sivakasi in February killing 10 people, has urged the National Human Rights Commission to inquire into the issue.

The team, consisting representatives of 11 social and human rights organisations, including Evidence, Tamil Nadu Campaign for Child Rights and Sivakasi Village Development Association, also said that the State the Central Governments should pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the deceased persons and Rs one lakh each to the injured.

The mishap occurred in Pepsi cracker unit in Oorampatti village panchayat on February 22.

Stating that about 600 cracker units were functioning in Sivakasi and most of them were failing to adhere to safety norms, the team, in its report, said if the Pepsi unit followed the norms, the accident could have been avoided.

The unit with 120 workers did not have adequate safety equipment or water or sand to douse the fire, the report said and added that the exit points of the factory was also narrow and rooms were like godowns without proper ventilation.

Further, the unit had ESI membership only to 34 of the 120 employees.

While cracker units must have a floor mat in rubber and finished products should be kept in a separate room, the Pepsi unit had not cared to bother to maintain the stipulated standard in work place, the report charged.

Pointing out the Deputy Chief Inspector of Factories should conduct surprise inspections to cracker units periodically, the team, quoting local residents, alleged that not many such inspections were conducted in Sivakasi.

It added that a large number of women in the age group of 16 to 18 were employed in cracker units despite the legal prohibition that no person below 18 years of age should be allowed to work.

In yet another violation, the units made eight to ten employees work in a single room without adhering to the norm that only to 2 to 4 persons should work in a room, the report said.

Stating that unless the enforcement of law was tightened, this sort of gory accidents would continue to occur, the fact-finding team insisted the State and the Central Governments should take strict action against the erring units and cancel their licence forthwith.