Boom..Boom! How Safe are Firecrackers Shops in City?
As per the law/rule, Shops selling Fire Crackers should be located on the ground floor, and should be separated from other parts of the building; It should be at least 15 metres away from premises selling flammable or hazardous material; It should not be under a floor used for the purpose of residence; It should not be under or nearby a staircase/lift; Has to be accessible for fire fighting; There should be no electrical apparatus/battery/equipment producing sparks; Fireworks cannot be sold on any premises other than the licensed ones.
Mangaluru: Looking at the above rules and regulations, how many shops selling fireworks are abiding by those rules and regulations- I bet not many, or could be not even one of them. Oh well, then how are they running their businesses. The recent fire tragedy following cracker explosion at a temple in Kollam, Kerala, has raised serious concerns over the sale of crackers in the city market area and other busy parts of Mangaluru. According to the Fire and Emergency Services Department, these cracker shops are functioning in violation of the Explosives Rules, 2008.
There are a couple of firecrackers shops around the Bunder area, on Market Road, and also at other parts of the city. Sources also reveal that some of these firecrackers dealers have obtained trade licence claiming to sell grocery, not crackers. How did they do that? Probably got licenses by bribing some corrupt authorities in the city administration. As per news clip published in one of the English national daily, a senior officer from the Fire and Emergency Services Department had said that these shops are functioning in violation of the Explosive Rules, 2008, framed for enforcement of the Explosives Act of 1884. Many of them are situated between other shops in shopping complexes and don’t stand isolated, as they should. These shops do not leave a setback area of 15 metres. They are also located in areas that are not easily accessible by firefighters. Many of them are also close to power lines. Many of them were granted a licence by the district administration about 30 years ago, and they are renewed every year. “Though required under the rules, none of these shops have approached us seeking no-objection certificate,” the officer had said.
The owner of a Fire Crackers shop on Market Road speaking to Mangalorean.com said, ” I have been in this business for decades, selling only safe fireworks manufactured by licensed and authorized manufacturers. I don’t sell any explosives kind of fireworks that created explosions in Kollam-Kerala. I take all the precautions while storing these firecrackers in my shop. There has been never been any kind of fire at my business for the last few decades”. When asked him about the rule that firecrackers shop should be close to other shops or in multiple shops building, to which he replied, “I am not aware of that, and no officials have ever said anything about it when I renew my license “. After that, he didn’t say much.
But Assistant Commissioner D.R. Ashok speaking to media has said that licence for the sale of crackers was issued and renewed according to the rules after getting NOC from the police, MCC and the Fire and Emergency Services Department. ” But from next year onwards, getting ‘no-objection certificates’ (NOC) from the police and the fire and emergency services will be mandatory for licence renewal to sell firecrackers. The rule will be not applicable this year as the process of renewing licence has already commenced. Up till now, NOCs were sought only at the time of issuance of the licence. This is one among the many changes the district administration has made in the wake of the recent fireworks tragedy at a temple in Kollam in Kerala which left 108 persons dead” had said DR Ashok.
It is learnt that there are 50 shops in the district, including 20 in Mangaluru having an LE5 licence to store and sell crackers. The district administration is yet to find shops that are operating without taking necessary permission. There are seven units in the district that have an LE1 licence to manufacture crackers. Two teams with an Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Superintendent of Police, and a Fire and Emergency Department official each has been formed to visit cracker manufacturing units in the district, and review safety and other mandatory compliances.
At a meeting held on April 16 with licence-holders, Additional Deputy Commissioner Kumar said they need to get NOCs from the police and fire and emergency services before submitting an application for licence renewal. He said the licences of five shops which did not renew it would be revoked. A fire and emergency services official said that the NOCs would be given only to cracker shops located independently, and those which complied with all requirements stated in the Explosive Rules 2008. Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim has also asked the fireworks sellers to keep a separate register for the sale of crackers worth beyond Rs. 1 lakh.
In the meantime, Civic rights activist Hanumanth Kamath speaking to Mangalorean.com said, ” If you look deep into the businesses run by many of these fireworks sellers in town, none of them have followed the norms and rules of Explosives Rules, 2208. Also, the MCC authorities and district administration have ignored and shown no seriousness while issuing a license to these shops. Do these officials know that many of these shops are operating selling crackers by declaring their premises as grocery ? MCC nor district administration has even bothered to cross-check and take action against violators. Now after the Kollam incident, everyone has woken up and trying to get their act straight, I guess”.