Three months after the fire at Puttingal Devi temple in Kollam claimed 110 lives, the police probe into the tragedy as well as rehabilitation of the victims are still under way.
On July 11, the Kerala High Court granted bail to 31 accused, including contractors handling the fireworks and the members of the management committee of the temple, as police failed to submit the chargesheet within the deadline of three months.
Crime Branch SP D Sreedharan claims the preparation of the “final chargesheet” has begun, and that the probe is not yet over. “A few reports, which should go into the chargesheet as scientific evidence, are awaited from the Forensic Department. We have not recorded the statement of all the injured,” says Sreedharan.
On April 10, a huge stock of explosives kept in the storeroom of the 100-year-old temple, meant for a fireworks display that is the highlight of the annual festival at the temple, had exploded when sparks had fallen on it. The huge blast, involving at least 5,000 kg explosives collected for the display, had left 110 dead and 383 injured.
Granting bail to the arrested, the High Court pulled up the government for its failure to initiate action against officials who failed to prevent the display of fireworks.
Sreedharan acknowledged that no government official or politician had been arraigned as an accused. Former Congress MR Peethambarakuruppu had been questioned after a temple committee member reportedly told the probe team that he had helped clear the official hurdles needed for the display of fireworks.
Kollam District Collector A Shinamole said the rehabilitation process and distribution of compensation were still on. “We have distributed compensation of Rs 2 lakh announced by the state for the dead. Although the Prime Minister had also announced a compensation of the same amount, we are yet to get the money,” said Shinamole. The Public Works Department had put the worth of the loss to the buildings and houses near the explosion site at Rs 2.75 crore.
Shinamole said people were still approaching the district administration with discharge summaries from hospitals to avail of the aid. “We are giving
Rs 50,000 to the injured, who were treated at government and private hospitals for free.”
The district administration had deputed a medical team to counsel those living near the temple to nurse them back from the trauma. The collector said officials had visited houses of all the dead to look into demands of their near ones such as writing off of loans and clearing of applications for ration cards under the BPL category.
Among the survivors were a minor boy and his sister, whose parents had died in the explosion. The parents had been working as tea vendors at the festival site. After the plight of Kishore and Krishna got highlighted in the media, the government had adopted them. A fixed deposit of Rs 20 lakh has been credited in their favour in the bank.