KOLLAM: On the same day of April 10 last year, the most devastating tragedy in the history of the state took place at Puttingal temple in Paravur. The residents of Paravur are yet to recover from the aftereffects of a fireworks tragedy that claimed 110 lives among them. A majority of those who have survived lost their limbs, making it impossible to go out from their single-roomed shacks to make a living.
The judicial probe into the firecracker disaster that claimed 110 and maimed many has not yet started, even after a year. The previous dispensation appointed retired Justice N. Krishnan Nair as the commission. However, it allegedly denied him sufficient facilities to function, in an apparent effort to save a Congress leader allegedly helped to procure permission for competitive fireworks. Justice Nair resigned “on personal grounds” in December, and the present government appointed Justice P.S. Gopinathan in his place in February with an office in Kochi.
Crime Branch investigation
Even as the Crime Branch was about to submit its investigation report on the disaster in January, the Kerala High Court directed it to look into the “extraneous influence” angle in getting the sanction for competitive fireworks. Based on the order the police chief directed IG S. Sreejith to investigate into that aspect. On completion of the report, permission of the district collector should be sought based on the Explosive Substances Act that ‘to launch the prosecution there must be a prior sanction of the district magistrate’.
“I have verified the final report by the Crime Branch in December itself. There is a supplementary investigation going on, after that the charge sheet will be filed at Paravur JFC magistrate court. The report will be submitted within two weeks. A report should be submitted before the high court too,” special public prosecutor Paripally Raveendran told DC. There are 59 defendants in the cases registered, out of which seven had died during the investigation. There are 1658 witnesses, 110 post-mortem reports, 110 inquest reports, and 450 material objects. The charge sheet will be of some 10,000 pages per accused, and the entire charge sheet will have over 5 lakh pages.
A year after the disaster, the injured, most of them not yet started earning their daily bread, are denied financial aid for their continuing treatment at various hospitals. Several families who endured damage to their houses have also not received compensation. “In Puttingal Ward, 17 households are waiting for damages. In the next Kurumandal ward too, a lot of families struggle with their houses unrepaired owing to lack of money. The authorities provided medical compensation for the first few months. The severely injured are not getting any money to continue their treatment,” Deepa Soman, Puttingal ward member, told DC.
Meanwhile, a 15-year-old girl who lost her mental stability seeing the horrific scenes of scattered dead bodies is still in the hospital. She has also not received any compensation. Vishnupriya, 15, daughter of Jayasree of Puttingal Veedu has stopped her studies due to it. She was a Class X student at SNV School in Paravur.
People are still insensitive
As Paravur is yet to recover from the devastating tragedy in front of their eyes, the temple committee avoided all sorts of entertainment and stage programmes and to carry out just the rituals during this season’s Meenabharani festival held March 24 to 30. However, in several places in the state even after the tragedy, people irrespective of religion are still insensitive to conducting such festivals with fireworks.
“There is an aesthetic factor, and people approach them, neglecting these disasters. The authorities, to prevent further accidents, should provide facility to enjoy it under controllable circumstances. In Puttingal, violation of orders has caused the disaster. The public should be sensitised by giving them scientific awareness on their blind beliefs too,” Sreeni Pattathanam, Bharatheeya Yukthivadi Sangham general secretary, told DC....