Until his ignominious arrest a day after a building of his blanket-making factory collapsed, Shital Vij was a respectable figure, counted among the who's who of Jalandhar.
Leveraging his lead role as head of the city's religious and social organisations, the 66-year-old industrialist had cultivated a measure of clout with politicians and bureaucrats.
So powerful was his influence - suitably buttressed by his latest media venture of a daily newspaper - that he flouted all safety norms at his factory with impunity. Officials of different departments responsible for industrial safety audit wouldn't dare enter his factory premises, much less check its dubious safety standards.
Fall from grace
But Vij's fall from the grace was as dramatic as the collapse of his factory in the worst industrial disaster in Punjab. Even before Vij could muster support of local industrialists and religious organisations, the law caught up with him and he was booked under section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 120 -B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption act.
He may face life imprisonment or 10 years in jail.
Going from strength to strength
Vij joined his family business in 1978. His father Basant Parkash ran the Indian Hosiery Works at Industrial Area to produce sports wear and jackets.
Vij later started his own venture from the same premises to produce and export blankets. He set up a new factory at Focal Point in 1993 and launched Shital Exports and Shital Fibres. A technical collaboration with a Korean firm specialising in production of fibre-based blankets gave his business a big boost.
He raised three more industrial units in 13 years, increasing production to meet export orders. Vij employed some 600 workers and staffers, giving indirect employment to another 4,000. His business empire is estimated to be worth Rs 4,000 crore, with leading names like the Reliance group buying blankets from the group. His personal assets are around Rs 300 crore.
Vij entered Jalandhar's religious-political arena when Amrit Sehgal was president of Sri Devi Talaab Mandir, the temporal seat of the Hindu community. Vij was the man behind the ouster of Sehgal, and installed his associate Vinod Gupta in Sehgal's place in the 2001 temple elections. Eventually, Vij got himself elected as temple president.
Later, he was unanimously elected temple president for five terms. He is also chairman of the historical Sodal Mandir Trust and Tayagmurti charitable hospital.
He ventured into media business with a cable news network Hulchul 10 years ago. He recently launched Hindi daily Dainik Savera. He is known to have close ties with senior civil and police officials.
Vij faced directorate of revenue intelligence raids nearly eight years ago. He unsuccessfully contested assembly elections in 2007.
The mishap has not only dented Vij's carefully-crafted image, but exposed how influential industrialists flout safety norms while authorities choose to look the other way.