By LE Desk

New Delhi, June 21, 2021: The National Green Tribunal has awarded compensation of up to ₹20 lakh to the victims of a fire accident at a fireworks facility in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district that killed 27 persons and injured 26 others on February 12.

The State Government had given a compensation of ₹3 lakh to the families of the deceased and ₹1 lakh to the injured from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

However, the NGT has said that the scale of compensation should be ₹20 lakh in respect of each of the deceased and ₹15 lakh to the persons who had sustained burns in excess of 50%, The Hindu reported. The compensation should be ₹10 lakh for persons with burn injuries from 25% to 50% and ₹5 lakh for persons who have injuries between 5% and 25%. Victims who were treated as outpatients and who had minor degree of burns or other forms of simple injuries should be paid ₹2 lakhs.

Holding that negligence or incompetence of officials of different departments of the Tamil Nadu Government led to the fire accident, the NGT in its order dated June 11 directed the State Government to pay the compensation through the Virudhunagar District Magistrate within one month, The Hindu said.

Making Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu responsible for the compliance, it has directed the State Legal Services Authority to provide legal aid to ensure that payment is made to genuine heirs of the deceased and to the injured without undue hassle.

The compensation has been awarded based on the recommendations of an eight-member committee formed by the NGT to look into the cause of the accident, extent of damage and to suggest remedial measures. The committee was headed by former Judge of Punjab and Haryana and Madras High Courts, Justice K. Kannan.

The committee had found that leasing out of the unit — Sree Mariyammal Fireworks at Achankulam in Virudhunagar district — by the license-holder to five others and allowing more persons than the permitted number of workers and using more quantity of chemicals led to the accident that claimed so many lives and brought down 14 sheds and partially damaged 25 shed.

It was also revealed that no certified foreman, as mandated by Explosives Act, 2008, was present to supervise the safety measures. While using “incompletely dried” colour pellets for making aerial crackers triggered the fire, leaving chemicals, semi-finished and finished goods strewn all around the unit led to quick spreading of fire and made it impossible for the workers to escape.

The NGT has fixed the licensee and the lease-holders responsible for the accident.

However, stating that the activities in the fireworks unit were highly dangerous, the NGT said that those activities were not being regulated by the State Pollution Control Board, Labour Department and the District Magistrate.

“The State has failed to put in appearance or give any explanation for its failure to protect lives of citizens by enforcing the law. The reason may be negligence of the officers concerned or incompetence. In such circumstances, the victims have to be compensated by the State and State can recover the amount from the erring parties,” the order by the principal bench of the NGT said, reported The Hindu.

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