The Paravur Puttingal temple fire accident in Kollam district, Kerala, in which at least 106 people were killed and 383 injured, might have been caused because the powerful temple administration ignored objections raised by officials about the fireworks show, reported The Indian Express on Monday.
During six weeks leading up to the disaster, according to the report, officials at every level “recommended denial of permission” to the temple for the proposed fireworks show.
The report added that a day before the accident, the proposed display was banned.
However, the Paravur Puttingal temple administration ignored the order and it had help from local politicians with an eye on the upcoming Assembly elections.
In violation of the orders of the district authorities, Rs 8.4 lakh worth of crackers were ordered for a fireworks display at the temple.
The display is a competition between people from two areas in the region.
The report quoted “top sources” in the Kerala Secretariat and the Kollam District Collectorate as saying that Additional District Magistrate A Shanavas and District Collector A Shainamol, who denied permission for the fireworks, were “bullied and threatened” by local politicians and Hindu groups.
Additionally, the report said that communal motives were attributed to the actions of these two officials by the people who tried to pressure them.
Speaking to the Indian Express, a source said, “But the temple authorities managed to get the support of political parties. The fireworks display is held dear by many, it is an emotional issue. It was only in the evening that the temple announced that the show would be held. Since it is election time, the temple authorities were confident that no one would stop them.”
According to the report, instead of implementing the ban order, the police were present in large numbers at the venue of the proposed show on Saturday night.
Shanavas, after having a sought a report on the issue, passed an order on Friday according to the report, saying, “Based on the inquiry reports and the application of the temple trust, it is understood that what is going to be held is not fireworks display, but competitive show by two groups. Hence, the temple trust’s petition seeking permission is denied and the show is banned. Legal action as per the Explosives Act would be initiated against those who violate the order.”
The report further adds that Labour Minister Shibu Baby John, who belongs to the same region and is alleged to have “pressured” Shainamol, doesn’t deny that he contacted the collector over the issue.
Speaking to the Indian Express and while refusing to comment on the allegation, he said, “Whatever happened, she (Shainamol) stood by her stand. I did enquire about the issue since it concerns people. I did not force her to withdraw the ban.”