A seven member fact finding team of CPI(ML) and AICCTU visited Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu on 7th September, where more than 50 workers have already died and several are critical in a massive blast in a fire-crackers’ factory.
The team found that blatant violations of safety norms and regulations are the reason for recurring incidents at Sivakasi fire crackers every now and then. What is shocking is that only a few days prior to this horrific incident the factory was ordered to be closed for its violations. Yet the factory remained in full operation, with the strength of more than 480 workers, most of them women, children and a considerable number of migrant workers from West Bengal. The owners of the fireworks and Government officials in collusion were running this death factory in total disregard of all norms and regulations.
In no way this could be termed as an accident. It is a clear case of deliberate crime. The officials are manufacturing a story that only 12 of the dead were the workers inside the factory, others were passers-by who were hit by flying rubble due to explosion. Seeeing the intensity and extent of damage, the team also raised a doubt about explosives being stockpiled on the factory premises for quarrying purposes.
In the face of such a tragic incident neither the labour minister nor the local minister have made even a visit. Even though much publicity was made about the impending visit of the CM, it is intriguing that she failed to turn up! When this was pointed out by the team the refrain of the public was, “the owner is an influential AIADMK bully”.
The fact finding team in its report demanded immediate arrest of absconding owner, resignation of the labour minister owning responsibility to such ghastly incident, arresting concerned labour and revenue officials and suspension of district collector, compensation of Rs.20 lakh to the family of every victim, 50 thousand to the injured, rehabilitation of the families with government jobs, strict enforcement of the Inter State Migrant Labor Act 1979, transparent, scientific safety norms and regulations in hazardous industries like fire cracker industry, making accountable the owner and factory and labour officers for such incidents etc. A Judicial enquiry must be instituted immediately to inquire into the many questions that have arisen.
The team was led by Comrade T Sankarapandian, CPI(ML) State Committee member and State GS of AICCTU. The members included Comrades Ponraj, District Party organizer of Tuticorin –Virudhunagar, Mathikannan, Avudaiappan, AIALA district organizer, Chellasamy, Murugan and Shanmugaperumal.
The TN State unit of AICCTU held a state-wide protest on 8th September 2012, on the demands of the team.