Factory Fire Claims 17 Lives; North Delhi’s BJP Mayor Whispers To Aide ,”Don’t Comment, Factory License Is With Us.”
January 22nd, 2018
A fire in yet another factory has led to loss of 17 lives. Reports of a fire in Delhi’s Bawana industrial area were received around 6.20 pm on Saturday evening. Fire-fighting units rushed to the two-storey house-cum-manufacturing unit in outer Delhi.
The fire was doused after hours of toil and prevented from spreading to compactly packed adjacent buildings. However, for the workers trapped inside the fiery death trap there was no escape other than a 25 feet jump from the terrace. 17 workers, including men, women and children, died on the spot, either asphyxiated or burned alive. Only 14 of the deceased were identified as others are too badly charred. One of the jumpers later succumbed to the injuries in the hospital. About 30 workers are in hospital fighting for their lives.
The President and Prime Minister expressed their condolences while Delhi CM Kejrival, North MCD Mayor Preeti Aggarwal and several other leaders rushed to the spot in the aftermath of the tragedy and awarded compensation to the kin of the victims. CM Kejriwal said that a probe has been initiated and the people responsible will be penalised. The BJP Mayor Aggarwal sparked a controversy when she was caught on the scene on camera trying to collude. Her words to an aide, “iss factory ki licensing hamare pass hai isliye hum kuch nhi bol sakte” ( We can’t comment as we are responsible for the licensing of this factory), were caught on camera and the video has become viral and part of news reports and tweets.
Manoj Tiwary tried to salvage the position of BJP by coming in defence of the Mayor, thus further politicising a tragedy which claimed so many lives and is a harsh reality that India is far from becoming a manufacturing superpower as the licensing and regulating of factories is rife with corruption and workers struggle daily in hazardous conditions.
Preeti Aggarwal asked whom does the factory come under, it's murmuring, only 'ye factory' is clear. Ppl are trying to make that fake video viral at a sad time just to blame BJP. CM re tweeted it, he must apologise for such low-level politics in time of despair: Manoj Tiwari, BJP pic.twitter.com/PSmaeEyb5t
— ANI (@ANI) January 21, 2018
Whether it is clearly audible or mere “murmuring” as Tiwary hotly contests, poor and unsafe working conditions are plaguing India’s factories.
India’s Unsafe Factories
The Bawana incident is not a one-off occurrence, rather it’s a manifestation of a systemic problem. As reported, the factory in question came into operation relatively recently and was mostly used as a plastic storage and warehousing unit. Firecrackers were being repackaged when the fire started. The cause of fire is yet to be determined but faulty electrical wiring is suspected as of now. The police booked the owner under sections 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter), 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the IPC and the case has been transferred to the Crime Branch. Rohini DM sent the owner of the firecracker factory Manoj Jain to one-day judicial custody. He will be produced before the court on Monday where police will ask for Police Custody.
Pappu Mahato, who runs a tea shop just 500 meters from the factory, described the working conditions of the factory employees. “In a few factories here, the owners shut the gates of the factory after nightfall, lock them up and leave the workers inside, where they continue to toil through the night. Owners who have something to hide often do this, so that when cops come around they don’t get to go inside. Most factories, like this one, have only one gate. If the one and only entry and exit route is locked and a fire breaks out like it did, what chance do these workers have? The loss of life would have been far more on a weekday. Usually, around 75 labourers work here but on that day, only around half turned up since it was the weekend,” he said. (Source : News18)
The workforce in the region is mostly made up of migrant workers who toil for a meagre 150-250 Rs a day and are bereft of any safety technique, training or equipment.
As per available data, the death toll in Indian factories stood around 4000 for the two year period 2010-2012. However, the actual number could easily be 10 times this as 90% of Indian workforce is part of the unorganised structure which is almost completely out of any regulatory ambit.
Image Source: Indian Express
Factory owners in greed circumventing already circuitous laws, cheap migrant workforce and lack of proper federal and accountable state level regulatory-cum-monitoring agencies are exacerbating the problem. Mere lip service is not going to make India a manufacturing hub anytime soon.