The revered Puttingal Temple at Paravaur (Kollam District) and the devotees in proximity woke up to a ghastly Sunday morning as they saw the temple being gobbled up by a raging fire and hundreds being burnt to death. Statistics is scary, to say the least. At least 102 have died and more than 350 people are struggling to overcome their injuries.
The accident, which took place at around 3.30 am on Sunday morning, is believed to have caused when the storehouse of the fireworks materials caught fire. As per the initial reports, the only feasible cause for fire was the sparks that flew from the fireworks on display to the storehouse. The impact of the explosion was so strong that the Travancore Devaswom Board’s office building near the storehouse was completely blown off.
Someone should remind Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy of a saying, “It’s better to prevent and prepare than to repent and repair. It is only after this devastating incident that assurances came from him about clamping down on illegal firework display. Why would we need wake-up call before putting safety measures in place?
It’s time to put the onus on Travancore Devaswom Board
Those who remember the Sabarimala Tragedy, although it was a case of stampede, would know that the crowd management system in the temples in Kerala is dismal. The surge in the number of devotees has not been factored in while hosting festivals every year. Someone has to fix the issues such as provision of basic facilities and ease in traffic movement. The Travancore Devaswom Board needs to track down cases of circumvention of local laws.
While the management is not able to meet the ever-growing needs of the pilgrimage, it is also not intervening in cases where special permits to burst firecrackers are given on religious grounds despite the district-level ban on pyrotechnics at temples.
Tradition vs. Rationality
At times, following an age-old tradition without adapting to the changing needs can be fatal. For those who don’t know, the major highlight of Vishu celebrations at the Puttingal Temple is a conglomeration of thousands of devotees at the temple grounds to see a massive display of fireworks. It is a visual treat, undoubtedly. However, it’s also a potential tinderbox waiting to explode.
Damage Control Measures
The Prime Minister may announce ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh each to the family of the deceased and police may conduct raids in the house of fireworks supplier, Surendran, but these are all acts of reparation and not preparation.
Death toll reaches 109; cars with explosives found
- Close to the accident site in Kollam, three abandoned cars with sacks full of explosives have been found. A bomb disposal squad has been called in to handle the explosives.
- Kerala Police detained five people on Monday in connection with the explosion. They were involved in conducting the firework display.
- Meanwhile, the Kerala Crime Branch is expected to start its probe into the tragedy on Monday.
13 April: District Collector bans fireworks offering at Sabarimala Temple
The Pathanamthitta district collector has enforced a temporary ban on fireworks offering at Sabarimala Temple. Currently open for the Vishnu festival, Sabarimala Temple will close on 18 April. Though the contractor had a licence to store up to 500 kg explosives, the licence expired on 31 March and there is no initiative to renew the same. With firework being a major offering at Sabarimala Temple, the district administration has decided to suspend fireworks until the next set of orders. Recent tragedy at Paravur has prompted the officials to resolve the issue right away.
Explore More :