Seven dead in India firework factory blast

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Updated 19 October 2017
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Seven dead in India firework factory blast

NEW DELHI: An explosion at an illegal firecracker factory in eastern India killed seven workers and injured nine others in the hours before Thursday’s Diwali festival, officials said.
Firework use hits a peak across India during the Hindu festival but New Delhi authorities have tried to restrict sales to tackle mounting pollution.
The explosion late Wednesday completely destroyed the makeshift structure after fire touched off the gunpowder and chemical stocks used to make the fireworks in Balasore district of Odisha state, said district magistrate Pramod Kumar Das.
He told AFP several of the injured workers are in a critical condition after the “huge” explosion.
Diwali, the festival of lights, is traditionally celebrated by lighting lamps but has metamorphosed into a grand show of fireworks, sparking pollution and controversy.
Explosions often occur in the thousands of illegal backyard and underground workshops that spring up during the festive season.
Last month, nine people were killed in neighboring Jharkhand state after their workshop was gutted by fire.
India’s firecracker industry, worth nearly one billion dollars a year, is the second largest in the world after China.
The country’s Supreme Court this month temporarily banned the sale of firecrackers in New Delhi because of the air pollution threat.
The ruling came after the capital last year suffered its worst air pollution in nearly two decades, which experts blamed on Diwali fireworks and stubble-burning in farming regions around the city.
Police have arrested more than two dozen people in New Delhi over the illegal sale of firecrackers since the October 9 court order and have seized more than one ton of firecrackers.


Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

Updated 16 November 2018
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Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

  • Community leaders will check on preparations for repatriation
  • Refugees who fled tents fearing forced repatriation have started to return

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: A group of Rohingya community leaders will go to Rakhine, Myanmar, to witness developments on the ground there, said Bangladesh Foreign Minister A. H. Mahmood Ali on Thursday evening in Dhaka.

Ali was talking to the journalists after his briefing to diplomats in Dhaka over the Rohingya repatriation and forthcoming general election. He said that during the briefing session diplomats came up with the idea of sending the Rohingya community leaders (Majhi) to witness the practical developments for repatriation.

“We agreed with this idea,” said Bangladesh Foreign Minister.

A group of community leaders will check the preparations initiated by Myanmar government and will brief their fellow Rohingyas after returning Bangladesh.

Ali said that there is a misconception among a few stakeholders that Bangladesh was trying to send back Rohingyas against their will.

“If we wanted to send the refugees forcibly, we won’t have allowed them in our country. We have shown a humanitarian gesture to them, so there is no question of sending them back forcibly,” Ali said.

“We will not send a single one of the refugees against their will. Those who will repatriate will go on their own will,” he added.

Talking to Arab News, Abul Kalam, Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of Bangladesh said, they have not stopped the repatriation process. It will remain open and if any of the Rohingyas wants to go back home, Bangladesh authorities will initiate repatriation for him or her.

Commenting on the failure of the first attempt at repatriation Kalam said, “Now we need to create more pressure on Myanmar for the completion of some specific tasks to build confidence among the Rohingyas. In the next Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting, we will put up these issues after more scrutiny.”
However, the next JWG meeting date is yet to be fixed, Kalam said.

After a week of tension over feared repatriation, on Friday everything was peaceful in the Rohingya camps at Cox’s Bazar. The refugees who fled from their tents fearing forceful repatriation started returning to their shanties.

“The Myanmar authority wanted to deceive us in the name of so-called repatriation process. If we would have returned on Thursday, they (Myanmar) would never granted our citizenship rights,” said Mohammad Lutfor Rahman, 53, of Jamtoli camp, Ukhia, who fled from his own tent after hearing that he was listed as a returnee in the first group.

Why did the Rohingyas refuse to take the offer to go back home, Rahman was asked. He said, “Myanmar authorities have declared that the repatriated Rohingyas will be kept in the camps for 5 months or more, guarded by armed law enforcers and there were no clear guidelines if we can go back to our original places or villages. So, what is point of accepting a camp life proposal in Rakhine?”

Another refugee, Syed Alam, 37, of Kutupalang camp, told Arab News, “Before any kind of repatriation, our top most priority is the guarantee of citizenship and once it is granted many of our problems will be minimized.”

However, talking about the future course of repatriation, United Nations Human Rights agency, UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh, Fairas Al-Khateeb, said, “We will continue to assist the Bangladesh government in assessing the voluntariness for repatriation. Bangladesh and Myanmar have made the deal of repatriation bilaterally, we can’t say when it will actually take place.”