The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Girl felled by ‘immersion’ firecracker

Seven-year-old Puja Sarkar was killed on Saturday when hit by a banned firecracker burst by a group of youths during a Jagaddhatri immersion procession at Mahestala, on the southern fringes of Calcutta. The cracker pierced the girl’s abdomen. Eight members of a local club have been arrested.

Drunk members of Prabhati Sangha, of Barkantala, in Mahestala, took out the image of Jagaddhatri in a procession for immersion on Saturday, although the deadline had elapsed on Friday.

In gross violation of the anti-pollution laws, club members burst high-decibel crackers. Puja was standing by the road with family members and neighbours to see the brightly-illuminated procession.

Prasun Bose, a local resident, said the club members, mostly in their 20s, burst crackers and danced wildly. “As they were drunk, no one dared to stop them,” said Bose.

Eye-witnesses said they suddenly heard a high-pitched scream and noticed Puja lying on the ground, writhing in pain, with blood oozing out of her stomach. Bystanders and family members realised that either a ‘rocket’ or some other banned firecracker had pierced her abdomen. Other people, who had gathered to watch the procession, fled the spot. Puja was taken to the local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Local people said banned firecrackers were available aplenty in Mahestala, because many fireworks factories were located there. “The police are aware of this but never take any action,” they said. They called in the local police, who arrived soon after and began to chase the processionists. The youths tried to flee but eight of them were picked up. The police are looking for the others involved in the crime.

Additional superintendent of police (industrial) Rajesh Kumar Singh said the force was investigating how the club members got permission for taking out the immersion procession, though the last date was November 15. “We are also interrogating the arrested persons on how they obtained the banned crackers. I have asked the officer in charge to submit a report after investigation,” said Singh.

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