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