More firecrackers and explosives are tumbling out of closets at Mojpole-Paschimpara village of Duttapukur in North 24-Parganas where a blast at an illegal firecracker unit claimed the lives of at least nine people on Sunday.
Police on Tuesday started to carry out raids at makeshift warehouses stocking fireworks.
“The duo of Jerat Sheikh and Keramat Sheikh, who used to run the illegal firecracker unit, had initially hired a room at the residence of Samsur Sheikh to stock the produce. It was at Samsur’s residence that the blast occurred on Sunday. As the illegal unit had been producing fireworks in large amounts, the duo had to hire at least three more rooms in the village to stock the finished items,” said a police officer in Duttapukur.
Acting on a tip-off on Tuesday, the police raided the rooms that were being used to stock the firecrackers.
“We recovered three tons of firecrackers stockpiled in three big rooms that used to function as makeshift warehouses,” a senior officer of Duttapukur police station said.
The confiscated items were shifted out of the village to be defused by the bomb squad. Earlier on Monday, a team from the fire services department visited the village and defused a large cache of explosives stocked in one of the houses at Mojpole-Paschimpara village by spraying them with water.
A villager said prior to the blast, aides of Jerat and Keramat used to take finished products out of the makeshift warehouses by hiding them in trucks ferrying vegetables.
Villager Abdul Majid Mandal said: “Usually they ferried finished items in the night in trucks carrying vegetables. It is difficult to believe that police had no knowledge about it.”
Villagers of Mojpole-Paschimpara vented their ire at the police as they "remained mute spectators" to the illegal activities despite their repeated protests for the past several months.
Bachhadevi Mahato, a homemaker in Mojpole-Paschimpara village, said: “Such stockpiling began in the locality a few months ago. We were afraid and told the police about it but nothing was done. Police activities began only after Sunday’s blast killed nine people and destroyed the property of many innocent neighbours.”
While conducting the raids at the makeshift stockyards on Tuesday, cops found containers of explosives and mostly finished items hidden behind bags of fodder for livestock.
The distrust among villagers for the police was palpable during the raids.
“We informed the police about the stockpile in the village but guarded our homes as we feared that goons in connivance with cops could shift the firecrackers to our homes to give the criminals a clean chit,” said a villager.
“We have no faith in the police. On earlier occasions, we informed the police but they gave a clean chit to owners of houses where explosives were stocked. They were hidden behind bags of fodder and the police did not bother to check them. So, today we stood guard until the explosives and firecrackers were taken away,” said Mandal.
Barasat superintendent of police Bhaskar Mukherjee said on Tuesday: “We are examining the entire incident closely. If any lapses are found on the part of the police, legal action will be taken against the individuals concerned. No one will be spared.”