Citizens' Issues
Sivakasi tragedy: Mourning at Diwali this year

Reports indicate that facilities at the government hospitals at Sivakasi are far from satisfactory and inadequate, besides being poorly equipped. It is important that the state takes adequate measures for management of healthcare in local hospitals to ensure speedy treatment in case of emergencies 

This Diwali will be a day of national mourning for the people who lost their lives in the unfortunate Sivakasi tragedy at the Om Sakthi Fireworks factory on Wednesday, due to poor safety measures.


Reports indicate that so far 39 people have lost their lives, many of whom were neighbours working in the surrounding areas, who came to the site on hearing the explosions, the first of which was heard at 12.20pm and followed by another some 40 minutes later.


The Department of Explosives had, in fact, cancelled the license of the firm only one day earlier, apparently after several warnings were issued to the owners for not adhering to the minimum safety standards. As many as 40 violations had been found before necessitating the licence cancellation. Murugesan, the owner, and other responsible people of the unit are reported to have fled the scene of this unfortunate tragedy.


Sivakasi, in Tamil Nadu, is the home of India’s largest fireworks production, employing more than 40,000 workers directly in some 450 factories with a very large number of other workers involved in related services.


The safety inspectors and Fire Service Officers are permitted to demand the factory owners to either comply with safety norms required or stop the operations until the required measures are in place. So, instead of simply issuing the order for cancellation of the licence, the safety authorities ought to have enforced the rule of locking out the factory premises. Such a move would have made the factory owners to comply with the safety standards and the loss of lives could have been avoided.  


Further reports in the press and the news channels indicate that facilities at the government hospitals at Sivakasi are far from satisfactory and inadequate, besides being poorly equipped, considering the huge working population in these fireworks factories, many of which are on a small scale. Literally, everyone in this town is some way or other involved in the fireworks industry. This is a cottage industry, both licensed and many illegal and even underage children are reportedly employed in these units.


The accident victims, due to poor medical facilities available locally, had to be taken to Madurai by motor vehicles and other nearby areas, many of whom died after being admitted in the hospitals. They may have died because of the transit delays.


As is usual with such tragedies, TN chief minister Jayalalithaa has announced various compensation packages for the victims, for loss of life, injury, etc. While this is an important and humanitarian act, what is more realistic, for the future, is to ensure that the existing facilities at the local hospitals are improved.


It appears that the district administrator had sent in a proposal to the state government last year, involving a capital expenditure of Rs4 crore, against which a sanction for Rs60 lakh has been received, as per media reports.


While the compensation package may give relief to the families of the victims, the fact remains that measures for the future, to prevent such incidents occurring in the place of work has not been put in place.


Equally important, therefore, is the immediate government measures to close all the unlicensed units; close those who do not have safety standards in place; ensure all the employees in such sites have proper insurance cover; increase the number of fire engines and related personnel in the areas of work and direct the police to locate the owners and bring them to justice.


No excuses and no leniency in safety measures should be tolerated.


RBI has no data of Wal-Mart's Rs455 crore in Bharti unit

While Wal-Mart has invested Rs455.8 crore in Cedar Support Services, a unit of Bharti Ventures, through Mauritius, the RBI do not have data of this deal

New Delhi: US retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc has invested Rs455.8 crore in a subsidiary of Bharti Ventures in 2010 via its Mauritius arm but the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has no data of the same, reports PTI.


In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said on 29 March 2010, Cedar Support Services Ltd (a subsidiary of Bharti Ventures) issued 45.58 crore compulsorily convertible debentures (CCDs) with face value of Rs10 each.


These CCDs were convertible into 42.59 crore equity shares of Rs10 each at a premium of 70 paisa per share. CCDs are a type of debenture in which the whole value of the debenture must be converted into equity by a specified time.


"The debentures are unsecured and convertible at the option of the subscriber (Wal-Mart Mauritius Holdings Co Ltd) within 18 months from the date of issue," he said.


"As per the balance sheet for the period 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2011 filed by Cedar Support Services, it is reported that, on 29 March 2010, the company issued 45.58 crore zero percent CCDs with face value of Rs10 each convertible into 42.59 crore equity shares of Rs10 each at a premium of Rs0.70 per share," the minister said.


He said that on conversion, the subscriber will have 49% holding in the equity on the company.


Sharma also said: "The RBI has reported that its database does not have any record of FDI in Cedar Support Services Ltd".


As on 25th June, except six shares, the remaining 44.33 crore shares were held by Bharti Ventures in Cedar Support Services.


Public Interest Exclusive
Paralympic Games: Coaches, escorts left outside while officials continue to ‘enjoy’ the “free ride”

Officials continue to dominate players, be it in games at town level or at Olympic level. This is again happening at the Paralympics, where coaches and spouses or parents of players are not being allowed inside the Games Village as their permits are being used by Paralympic Committee members

Farman Basha is recipient of the Arjuna Award and one of the senior players from the Indian team participating in the London Paralympics. However, he is left without his coach or escort to participate in the event. Reason? The permits or passes of escorts and coaches and facilities are being used by officials of the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI).


“My wife, Antonia sold her jewellery so I could represent India at the Games. She was also supposed to help me get my way around the events. She’s my soul mate and I owe my success to her. Sadly, today she’s stranded outside the Games Village, because Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) members are using the free facilities meant for athletes and their support staff,” he wrote in a petition at


This is not the case with just Farman, another athlete Amit Kumar Saroha is a wheelchair participant, but his coach also has been left stranded outside the Games Village. There are several cases of coaches, escorts or family members of players being left outside the Village while officials continue to ‘enjoy’ the “free ride”.


Here is the list of escorts and coaches deprived of their rights to attend the event...


Naval Singh

KS Nizamuddin


Vijay B Munishwar

Sadanand Malashetti

John Christopher Nirmal Kumar



KN Govinda


Manguesh Umredkar

KN Vishwanath

Ms Antonita Farman


This step-motherly treatment has also affected the performance of these players. While Farman has been lifting 170kg in the 48kg class, in the absence of his coach and escort, he could not even lift 148kg. Despite undergoing all emotional drama, he managed to secure 5th place in the power lifting event.


“My coach, Sadanand Malashetti, who has trained me for years now, couldn’t access the Games Village even though his name was in the list of attendees provided by the Indian government. After the event when I asked for a pass for my wife who is legally my escort, I was denied the pass since the PCI wanted to punish me for complaining against them,” Farman wrote in his petition to the sports minister.


The issue was also raised by Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN-IBN during his show “Talking Point”, where Ajay Maken, the minister for sports promised action against the officials. According to media reports, Mr Maken had said that he had contacted the Indian High Commission officials and director general of the Sports Authority of India and asked them to look into the matter.


Speaking on the show, Javed Abidi, convener of the Disabled Rights Group alleged that despite knowing the problem beforehand, Mr Maken and the sports ministry failed to take any action. “Athletes checked into the Village a week or 10 days ago. They have been crying since then. The matter has been known to the ministry, then why hasn’t action been taken earlier?” Abidi said. He also alleged that the PCI was not functioning for the benefit of the athletes and faced similar allegations during the Commonwealth Games.


“There was lot of corruption and mismanagement done by PCI during the Commonwealth Games, which is when we raised our voices and dharnas were held. The ministry of sports at that time had come under pressure and had withdrawn the recognition of PCI. Ajay Maken is the person who restored that recognition to the corrupt PCI,” he told the channel.


Officials from PCI have, however, denied these allegations. “We cannot have an escort for every athlete. We have 10 athletes and only six people have been sanctioned to stay inside the Games Village. We are managing things with some people coming early at the Village and leaving late in the evening,” an official from PCI told PTI.



nagesh kini

5 years ago

When PCI is a part of Kalmadi dominated Committee you can't expect anything better. The babus will go any lengths to make fun and money at anybody and everybody's cost even challenged athletes. They have no qualms.

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