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Wardha Ordnance Depot Spells Fear and Terror for Nearby Villagers

On Tuesday, their worst fears came true when there was a blast at the CAD in Pulgaon town in Maharashtra's Wardha district, killing six people and injuring 10.


Updated:November 21, 2018, 5:05 PM IST
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Wardha Ordnance Depot Spells Fear and Terror for Nearby Villagers
An ambulance leaves the Pulgaon army depot on Tuesday morning.

Pulgaon: At 4 am every day, scores of men get into the explosive demolition pit at the Central Ammunition Depot (CAD) here, gingerly picking up ammunition waste, more than aware that they are playing with their lives as they earn their livelihood.

On Tuesday, their worst fears came true when there was a blast at the CAD in Pulgaon town in Maharashtra's Wardha district, killing six people and injuring 10.

The blast took place between 7.10 am and 7.15 am when labourers were unloading the ammunition for disposal, a defence official said.

The residents of Kelapur, Sonegaon, Chikni and Jamni villages, located close to the ordnance depot, said they are scared of living so close to the ammunition depot and danger is a constant companion -- whether it is collecting waste or unloading the ammunition.

A villager in Kelapur, which has a population of about 1,200, said around 100 to 200 casual labourers go to the demolition ground around 4 am each day.

"After the ammunition blasts, the labourers collect steel, copper and other metal remains. We earn around Rs 200 to Rs 300 daily and the work is undertaken Monday to Saturday here," he said.

Vandan Jadhav, 46, a farmer in the village, said their terrors have been realised with the tragedy on Tuesday.

"The trucks carrying unserviceable ammunition pass through roads along our homes," he said.

What would happen if there was a blast while the ammunition was being transported to the demolition ground was a question they were forced to ask themselves, he said.

"Due to the ammunition blasts, the walls of our houses have developed cracks. The utensils kept in the houses and the tin roofs start rattling due to the tremors created by the blasts," he said.

According to Jadhav, about 10 blasts are carried out each day. Some days, when there is more ammunition to be disposed of, the number of explosions also goes up.

Manohar Bahote, employed as a contract labourer for loading and unloading ammunition, said Tuesday's incident has made some of them rethink their options.

"We stay around 50 to 60 metres from the blast pit, which is around six feet deep.

Once the blasts are over, we rush to the pit to collect the ammunition remain. We start early in the morning and the exercise continues till 10 am.

"Although small blasts occur routinely, yesterday's incident has made us think about working and staying here. It is a very dangerous exercise," he said.

The trauma finds wide echo in the area.

"We are in a state of shock. We feel terrorised," said Suryakant Borkar, another resident of the village.

Spread over 1,200 acres, the CAD here is one of Asia's biggest ammunition depots where outdated ammunition from ordnance factories from across the country is brought to be destroyed.

The dangerous work notwithstanding, the contractor often does not give them their wages on time and also keeps 75 per cent of the collected metal, allege villagers in Kelapur and Sonegaon.

A contractor was assigned only three to four years ago, they said.

"Before that, the Army used to load and unload the ammunition on its own and the villagers used to collect the remains," said a villager.

"However, for the last four years, labourers working under the contractor do the loading and unloading work and collection of ammunition remains," he said.

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