The two-storey building in Delhi’s Bawana Industrial Area caught fire on Saturday.(Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)
The two-storey building in Delhi’s Bawana Industrial Area caught fire on Saturday.(Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

Bawana fire: Building that stored crackers had only one exit, two fire extinguishers

At least 10 women and seven men were charred to death in a fire that broke out in a firecracker unit in outer Delhi’s Bawana industrial area on Saturday evening
By Sweta Goswami | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2018 09:52 AM IST

The two-storey building in Delhi’s Bawana Industrial Area that caught fire on Saturday, killing 17 people, had just one exit. The building, which had a basement, had at least 30 workers with just two fire extinguishers, which, according to Delhi Fire Service officials, was “grossly inadequate”. The building also did not have a no-objection certificate from the fire department.

“Ideally, there should be smoke detectors, alarms and water sprinklers in every floor of the building, including the basement. But none of it was there in the said building,” said Atul Garg, additional director, DFS.

Garg said the building had just one exit but industrial guidelines for fire safety say there should be an alternative exit at the back of every factory building. Apart from this, the entrance to the terrace should also be kept open at all times so that occupants can be rescued in case of any mishap.

BLAZES THAT SHOOK THE CITY
2018
Jan 16: Factory gutted in fire in west Delhi’s Peeragarhi
Jan 15: Four people were critically injured after a fire broke out at a plastic factory in Sriniwaspuri
2017
Nov 18: A massive fire broke out in a plastic scrap market in Mundka
Oct 24: A major fire gutted numerous shops and godowns in Kamla Market area. No casualties
Oct 16: Close shave for six firemen as a building on fire collapsed in Mansarovar Garden
Sept 7: One dead after fire engulfed Haldiram’s factory in Noida
May 26: A 50-year-old man died in a fire at a plastic factory in Narela
May 22: A major fire in Chandni Chowk area gutted over 50 shops
March 26: One man was killed in a fire at a plastic factory in Narela
April 19: Six killed as a fire broke out in a Noida electronic goods unit
Feb 24: Two firemen killed in a fire at a restaurant in Vikaspuri
2016
Sept 30: Three killed when a plastic factory on fire collapsed in the middle of rescue ops in Narela
April 26: A huge collection at the National Museum of Natural History was destroyed in a fire
April 12, 2013: Two kids died when a fire broke out in Bawana slums
Nov 20, 2013: Fourteen dead when a fire broke out in Nandnagari
April 28, 2011: 10 labourers charred to death in a major fire in Peeragarhi
June 22, 2009: Two killed in a fire at a slum in Karkardooma
May 31, 1999: 57 persons were killed when a fire broke out at Lal Kuan chemical market complex
June 13, 1997: 59 people were killed and 103 wounded when Uphaar cinema in Green Park caught fire
1992: Fire in Naya Bazar. Three houses collapsed. Three dead
1996: Three dead after transformer catches fire in Khari Baoli
1987: Four dead after fire in chemical godown in Gandhi Gali, Tilak Bazar
January 1986: A fire broke out at The Siddharth Hotel in Vasant Vihar killing 37 and injuring 39. It was later renamed Vasant Continental

Other officials from the DFS suspect that the scenario will be similar across the 2100-acre industrial area and other industrial hubs such as Narela.

The tragedy that unfolded on Saturday was waiting to happen, officials said. From about 18,000 in 2016, the number of industrial units in Delhi’s Bawana Industrial Area has touched 51,697. But there is no record of any regular inspections that are to be conducted by agencies concerned — the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (DSIIDC), MCDs and the fire department.

The problem starts right from the scratch, that is licensing. Factory licences are issued by the MCD. When HT sought to speak to the licensing officer, a spokesperson of North MCD said, “The person who issues factory licence is very junior.”

While both industries minister Satyendar Jain and North MCD mayor Preety Agarwal ordered inquiries, the latter suspected that the building might have had serious safety lapses. “I have asked to find if this unit had got a factory licence,” the mayor said.

Industrial zones such as Narela and Bawana were shifted out of the city to decongest Delhi and reduce pollution, but the move had a flip side. Kept away from daily sight, these industrial areas had been alienated over the years with agencies skipping regular monitoring and no accountability being fixed for safety lapses.

In Bawana, industrial units range from drugs and pharmaceuticals, petroleum-based products, chemical products, rubber products. In the absence of any random inspection, many units flout industrial norms, even as work continues unabated.

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