Eleven days have passed but the pain of residents of Khadikul village in West Bengal’s Egra town still lingers. On May 16, a blast at an illegal firecracker factory here about a dozen people, five of them women. The prime suspect and owner of the factory, Bhanu Bag, was also killed.
As one enters Khadikul, the remnants of the factory stand like a scarecrow in a paddy field. The intensity of the blast was such that the structure was blown up. Authorities have now barricaded the entire factory. People from the village see it as a curse that claimed so many lives.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee visited the village on Saturday and handed over compensatory cheques of Rs 2.5 lakh to the next of kin of the employees who died. “I have come to stand by you. I am very sorry for whatever has happened. We have changed the police personnel also. I will be there for you,” she told the locals.
The chief minister also distributed appointment letters to the position of Home Guard to one member of each of the bereaved families.
When one enters the village, the pain and grief of the residents is palpable.
Kaushik Maity’s mother was among those killed. Speaking to News18, he said, “The CM came, gave jobs, but such illegal factories should not run anywhere. My mother used to work there because there was no alternative. There was no money, no work, what will we do? That day, the noise of the blast was huge. My mother had left home early in the morning. I still can’t believe she is no more.”
Poverty forced them to do this work and the need for money made factory owner Bhanu Bag a local “messiah”, said residents.
Sanjit Bag, husband of deceased Madhabi Bag, was sitting helplessly in his hut.
He showed News18 the cracks that have developed in the house due to the blast in the factory 200 metres away. “We did know whether bombs were made there or not. A lot of people are now saying that. She use to get paid 200 rupees per day,” he said.
Most of the women who died had young kids who now sit teary-eyed in front of their mothers’ photos.