Kerala temple tragedy: Gross violations come to light

RSTV Bureau
Paravoor: An unidentified man weeps as bodies of victims lie outside a morgue at the Kollam district hospital after a massive fire broke out during a fireworks display at the Puttingal temple complex in Paravoor village, Kollam district, southern Kerala state on Sunday.   PTI Photo

Paravoor: An unidentified man weeps as bodies of victims lie outside a morgue at the Kollam district hospital after a massive fire broke out during a fireworks display at the Puttingal temple complex in Paravoor village, Kollam district, southern Kerala state on Sunday. PTI Photo

A day after the deadly fire triggered by fireworks in a Kollam temple in Kerala killed 110 people, gross violations of norms have come to light.

Authorities reveal that the explosives used in the fireworks display contained banned substances. It has also come to light all precautions to conduct a pyrotechnics show were ignored and a ban order was also violated.

“There seems to be a gross violation of explosives norms”, Chief Controller of Explosives, Sudarshan Kamal, in charge of monitoring use, storage and licensing of explosives, said after visiting the accident site.

“Basic precautions had been ignored”, he added.

Kollam District Collector A Shainamol said an probe has been launched as to how the permission to hold fireworks was given.

“They have recommended that no permission should be given for the fireworks because of the competitive nature and lack of space among others.But somebody has gone ahead and done this and I have asked this to be investigated,” she said.

Meanwhile, amid growing clamour for a ban on temple fireworks display in Kerala, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages about 1,255 temples in the state, has said it still does not favour a complete ban on such displays.

“In various temples fireworks display is part of temple rituals and we cannot ban it”, Prayar Goapalakrishnan, President of TDB said.

“But it should be as per the restrictions of government and court orders with sufficient safety measures”, he added.

However, the board has issued an urgent circular to all temples under it, directing that the fireworks display be carried out only in compliance with rules and regulations.

On Sunday, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had said that the government could impose regulations on the display of fireworks, but cannot ban them.

“In the name of rituals and traditions, we have limitations. We can regulate them (display of fireworks) but not ban them”, Chandy had said.

A devastating fire had engulfed the 100-year-old Puttingal Devi Temple complex during an unauthorised display of fireworks early on Sunday morning.

At least 100 kgs of explosive material was seized by the police from a nearby storehouse earlier today. The police is conducting more searches in various places in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram.

A case has now been registered against six persons, including members of temple managing committee and associates of firework contractors.

The case registered by the police includes attempt to murder (Section 307) and attempt to commit culpable homicide (Section 308) and Section 4 of the Explosives Substances Act, the police said.

“The crime branch has initiated the investigation by collecting evidence from the mishap spot at the temple complex,” ADGP (Crime Branch) S Ananthakrishnan, who is heading the Crime Branch special investigation team told PTI.

“More persons will be included as accused after collecting documents and evidence,” he added.

Among the accused are associates of two contractors who conducted the competitive fireworks, said the police.

Five other persons have also been held for questioning.

The Kerala government had ordered a judicial probe by a retired High Court Judge as also a probe by Crime Branch.

(With inputs from PTI)