Context: The firecracker industry, which was concentrated in Sivakasi, is much more dispersed in Tamil Nadu now with small units, both legal and illegal, coming up across districts. Many of these units’ function with little supervision, monitoring, or official inspections, which has led to a spate of tragedies in recent months.
Fireworks industry in Sivakasi
- Sivakasi located in the Virudhnagar district of Tamil Nadu is known as the fireworks capital of India.
- The foundation of the fireworks industry in Tamil Nadu was laid down by two Nadar brothers, who were trained in match stick making. Over time, the fireworks industry grew and came to account for 90% of fireworks production in India.
- According to the industry association, there are around over one thousand units engaged in firework production in and around Sivakasi providing employment to 8 lakh people.
- However, in recent years the fireworks industry in Sivakasi has become dispersed with smaller units (both legal and illegal) coming up all over Tamil Nadu.
- Reasons for this trend: High profit margins in the fireworks industry is inducing smaller players and workers engaged in Sivakasi firework plants starting their own plants across Tamil Nadu.
- The trend towards smaller firms has resulted in lots of accidents in fireworks industry because of:
- These smaller units operate under the radar with little supervision, monitoring, or official inspections.
- Smaller units have less focus on safety resulting in many accidents due to overstocking of explosive chemicals above the permissible limits, employment of workers without training and sub-leasing of larger firework firms to smaller firework firms which have little or no focus on safety.
- Safety processes such as automation of the dangerous mixing process of chemicals costs about Rs 20-25 lakhs which smaller factories find difficult to invest.
- Petroleum & Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) which is the licensing and regulating authority for large firework units is short-staffed.
- PESO licenses are only issued to firms which handle between 15 to 2000 kg of fireworks.
About Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organization (PESO)
- The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO), formerly known as Department of Explosives, since its inception on 05/09/1898, has been serving the nation as a nodal agency for regulating safety of hazardous substances such as explosives, compressed gases, and petroleum.
- PESO has its Headquarters at Nagpur in Maharashtra and serves through nine Circle Offices viz Agra, Bhopal, Chennai, Faridabad, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Vadodara, and their subordinate Sub-Circle offices across the country.
- It works under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
- Functions of PESO
- PESO’s major work is to administer the responsibilities delegated under the Explosives Act 1884 and Petroleum Act 1934 and the Rules made there under the motto “Safety First.”
- Administration of following rules under Explosives Act, 1884: Explosives Rules, 2008; Gas Cylinders Rules, 2004; Static & Mobile Pressure Vessels (unfired) rules, 1981; Ammonium nitrate rules, 2012; Acetylene notification of 1983.
- Administration of following rules under Petroleum Act, 1934: Petroleum Rules, 2002; Calcium carbide rules, 1987; Cinematographic Film rules, 1948; Inflammable Substance Act, 1952.
- Ensure public safety in areas of manufacture, transport, storage, handling etc. of Explosives, Petroleum, Carbide of Calcium, Inflammable substances and Compressed Gases.
- Framing National Standards concerning public safety and harmonizing Indian standards with international standards.
- Evaluation of new technologies finding applications in hazardous areas for adoption in indigenous conditions within the purview of Explosives Act 1884 and Petroleum Act 1934.
- It is licensing and regulating authority for large fireworks units.
- Providing operational and technical advice and assistance to Central and State governments, Local bodies, Law Enforcement Agencies, Industry, Trade and end users of these products.
- Develop alert, innovative and well-trained workforce.
- Scrutiny and approval of site, layout and construction plans for explosive manufacturing & storage, fireworks manufacturing & storage, manufacture of explosives in Bulk mixing and delivery vehicles; Petroleum, Gas cylinder, LPG and CNG storage & filling stations; Petroleum refineries; Petroleum tank lorries; Petroleum & Gas pipelines; Flame proof equipment and calcium carbide storage premises.