Surat: In 1981, Surat witnessed the worst accident in its famed textile industry when 98 people died and 105 injured as the four-storey Shantinath Silk Mills crumbled after a boiler explosion. Around 200 firemen had toiled for five days to remove the bodies from the debris. The accident had forced the state government to amend the law and make checking the structural stability of industrial units mandatory and the license be renewed every five years by a competent authority.
But the law seems to be remaining only on paper. The collapse of Shalu Dyeing and Printing Mills building on June 9 has raised several questions whether the owners are adhering to safety norms and getting the mandatory structural stability checks done. In Pandesara GIDC, which has got a swanky redeveloped infrastructure at the cost of Rs 62 crore, all the industrial units are more than 30 years old and in a dilapidated condition.
In 2017, Pandesara GIDC became a model industrial estate in south Gujarat with facilities like underground electricity network, better water and drainage network, cement concrete roads in 2.12 lakh square metre area. However, majority of the textile mill owners are still complacent when it comes to the periodic checks of the structural stability of their mill structures.
President of South Gujarat Textile Processors’ Association (SGTPA) Jitu Vakharia said, “I am not sure whether old units have been doing the internal maintenance of the structure and the machinery. Time and again, we have been holding meetings and asking our members to comply with all the norms of industrial safety. Having fire fighting equipment is must for all. However, in some cases people tend to ignore it and take things lightly.”
Vakharia added, “When factory inspectors pay the visit, generally they look for the machinery and pressure vessel stability reports. But, they do not check the structural stability of the building, which can be in bad shape.”
It is a fact that out of 100 textile dyeing and printing mills in this estate, few are constructed in the last 15 years, but most of them are those built in the 80’s.
Factory inspector at Pandesara R Tarpara told TOI, “A officer has to go for two mandatory inspections every month as per the draw system . We cover our area and units for inspection are decided by the government procedure which is through lots. We check every aspect of structural stability and industrial safety and health issue. In some cases, we ask for immediate action on behalf of owners.”
A textile mill owner said on the condition of anonymity said, “The shortage of manpower in the government is serious issue. The department is not able to physically check everything.”