West Bengal: Politics at play after firecracker factory explosion in North 24 Parganas, BJP demands NIA probe

BJP and TMC engage in usual political battle after the blast
Image Source : PTI BJP and TMC engage in usual political battle after the blast

An explosion at an illegal firecrackers factory in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district on Sunday in which eight people lost their lives, triggered political blame game in the state. Opposition Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) slammed ruling Trinamool Party (TMC) demanding NIA probe into the blast.

The explosion took place around 8.30 am at the factory in Nilgunj’s Moshpole within Duttapukur police station limits, around 30km north of Kolkata, they said. The blast’s impact was so intense that over 50 houses in the neighbourhood were partially damaged and body parts of people were found on terraces of several buildings, a senior police officer said, adding they suspect several people were still stuck under the rubble.

“The matter is under investigation. Guilty will be punished,” the officer said. According to a senior police officer of Barasat police district, of the seven people undergoing treatment at a hospital, the condition of one is “very critical”.

TMC vs BJP over blast

Soon after the blast, the TMC and BJP engaged in a war of words. BJP demanded NIA probe while the Trinamool asked the BJP to stop doing “vulture politics.”

Leader of the Opposition and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari said the state was sitting on a powder keg. 

“There is no monitoring of illegal activities by police. These crackers’ units are patronised by local TMC leaders,” he alleged.

BJP blames Bengal Minister Rathin Ghosh

The BJP claimed that the factory was running with the support of local MLA and state Food Minister Rathin Ghosh. BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah demanding a NIA probe into the matter.

“Considering the gravity of the situation and the potential threat these incidents pose to the safety and security of the region, I earnestly request your intervention. I urge you to direct the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into these explosions, covering all aspects including the possibility of any terror-related activities,” he said.

Senior BJP leader Dilip Ghosh also demanded a probe by the central agency. “Under TMC rule, West Bengal has become a hub of bomb-making factory and terror activities and only a NIA probe can bring out the truth.”

TMC hits back at BJP

Reacting to BJP’s allegations, TMC leader Kunal Ghosh equated the saffron party with a “vulture” and said it is a useless political outfit that pursues politics over bodies.

“The BJP should stop doing its vulture politics. They are like vultures, waiting for someone to die so that they can come and maul the carcass. They should stop jumping to conclusions and let police complete the probe,” Ghosh said.

Rubbishing the saffron party’s allegation, Food Minister Rathin Ghosh alleged that the Indian Secular Front (ISF) is behind the illegal unit.

“I don’t think the administration had any information about this illegal factory. I heard that an ISF activist from Murshidabad had rented a property here and was running the illegal unit. I wonder whether they were planning something big,” the minister said.

ISF MLA Naushad Siddiqui alleged that the owner of the factory is a member of the TMC and had full support to run the unit there.

“The owner is a TMC man and he had full support to run this illegal factory,” Siddiqui said.

TMC Rajya Sabha MP Santanu Sen told PTI that the state government has formed a SIT (Special Investigation Team), which busted several such illegal fireworks units over the last few months.

“If there are some units still functioning illegally, those will also be busted soon,” he said.

Sen said at times action against such units also invite the ire of locals as thousands of people depend on it for livelihood.

Chairman of the firecrackers’ makers’ association ‘Sara Bangla Atash Bazi Unnayan Samity’ Babla Roy said banned high-decibel ‘chocolate bombs’ were being manufactured at the illegal factory.

Governor Dr CV Ananda Bose, who reached Duttapukur from Kolkata airport after returning to the city after a three-day trip to North Bengal, said he would evaluate the situation.

“This is very shocking and disturbing. I was in Siliguri earlier in the day where one of our young friends died because of an assault on her modesty. That is very painful. Now, we have this incident. I understand that eight precious lives have been lost,” Bose said.

Later, after meeting the injured in Barasat Medical College and Hospital, Bose said police are taking effective action.

A CID bomb squad, personnel of the disaster management department and a contingent of police are at the spot, police said, adding locals ransacked the house of one of the owners of the factory following the blast.

Asked whether the factory was also manufacturing bombs, the officer said the matter should be probed.

“We have seized raw materials used for manufacturing firecrackers. Our forensics team is checking and taking details,” he said.

Twelve people were killed in a similar explosion at an illegal firecracker factory in Purba Medinipur district’s Egra in May while three died in another explosion in Maheshtala in South 24 Parganas district.

The senior police officer said the illegal firecracker unit was temporarily closed after the blasts in Egra and Maheshtala.

“The owner had temporarily shut the unit after the blasts at Egra and Maheshtala. He started manufacturing again around a month ago,” the officer said.

On Sunday, there were over 10 labourers from Murshidabad district working at the illegal factory when the blast took place.

“They were packing the firecrackers when the blast took place. A huge stock of gunpowder was found in the tents put up on the ground behind the house. We are probing into the matter,” he said.

(With PTI inputs)

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