VISHAKAPATNAM: With the Diwali festival fast approaching, illegal firecracker manufacturing units are mushrooming in north coastal Andhra Pradesh. The festival is held on October 24.
Last fortnight’s incident in Aripaka village in Anakapalli district in which two persons died during the manufacture of firecrackers led to a police crackdown on such units in north Andra.
Police said the highest number of 50 illegal units were identified in Vizianagaram district.
SP Deepika Patil said 26 illegal units were raided in Vizianagaram division, 17 in Bobbili and seven in Cheepuru palli. Only 28 persons or agencies had valid licences to operate such units in the region, she said.
Anakapalli is known for good quality firecrackers. The product is in high demand in Visakhapatnam city. Other than the Diwali festival, the crackers are used for the Ganesh festival Nimajjanam, Dasara, marriages and political rallies.
“We cannot call them factories. Families as a unit make crackers in their homes for a livelihood. We are checking on them to prevent further loss of lives,’’ said SP Gautami Sali.
There are 20 licensed manufacturers but there is no trace of illegal manufacturers, another police official in the district said. Teams comprising tahsildar, a sub-inspector and a station fire officer are verifying the licences and zeroing in on those making these without a licence.
Interior villages of Sabbavaram, Anakapalli mandal (rural), Devarapalli, Narsipatnam, Achutapuram, and Kasimkota mandals are known to have illegal units. Many such accidents and deaths were reported in recent times from Sabbavaram mandal.
Sources said around 60 people might have lost their lives due to explosion and fire in the illegal units during the last four years in north coastal Andhra Pradesh. The highest number of 14 deaths was reported from Srikakulam when crackers stored in a shed blew up in 2005.
A retired fire official said the illegal manufacturers buy raw material from the open market and shops and their bona fides were not being checked by the sellers. Sometimes they buy material from the licence-holders and sell them for marginal profits.
“The crackers are made in makeshift sheds or thatched houses in isolated places, agriculture fields and interior villages, by paying low wages to the workers. There is no check on them,’’ he said.
Visakhapatnam fire officials said the district has no units licensed or unlicensed....