Bawana unit where fire killed 17 was registered as a plastic factory
Ten 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, in one of the capital’s deadliest industrial tragedies since 57 people were killed in a chemical market complex in 1999.Updated: Jan 22, 2018, 11:07 IST
The three-storey building, where 17 people were killed after it caught fire on Saturday, in northwest Delhi’s Bawana industrial area was registered as a plastic factory but was used illegally as a unit to package and store firecrackers, police said on Sunday.
The fate of the victims was sealed 21 days ago when businessman Manoj Jain started stocking firecrackers in the rented building that had no fire evacuation plan, only two fire extinguishers, and a lone exit that was allegedly locked when the blaze broke out.
Jain had allegedly hired workers to put in packages firecrackers bought from manufacturers and keep the highly inflammable material on different floors of the building.
Police said at least 30 people worked in the unit in different shifts, but did not specify how many were inside when the fire started.
According to Delhi municipal corporation officials, building Number F-83 was being used by its tenant, Manoj Jain. MCD officials cited property tax papers to make their point.
The Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) allots plots in the industrial area spread over 2,100 acres, which reported more than 450 fire emergencies and five fire-related deaths in 2017. The municipal corporation gives licences to run factories and warehouses.
The factory was originally in Shahdara but was shifted to Bawana as part of a government relocation scheme.
Delhi police has registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and under sections of the explosives act against Jain, who was arrested early on Sunday. He was produced before a city court, which remanded him in judicial custody for a day. The case was transferred to crime branch in the evening.
Rohini deputy commissioner of police Rajneesh Gupta said: “We are interrogating Jain to know if he had a licence. The factory was stocking firecrackers used in stage shows and Holi celebrations.”
Jain used to run a plastic toy manufacturing unit in the building, but discontinued the business and started supplying firecrackers, he said.
According to MCD officials, building owner Uma Mittal applied for a fresh licence in 2015 but her application was shot down. YS Maan, spokesperson of the North MCD, said tenant Jain was using the building to store firecrackers illegally.
Civic officials said Jain’s factory was running without a licence, even as North MCD mayor Preeti Aggarwal of the BJP was purportedly caught on video cautioning her aides not to speak about the building because its licence was with the civic body. She denied making such a statement and called the video fake.
Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal and health minister Satyendar Jain visited the Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital to meet families of the deceased.
“A probe committee has been formed. Action will be taken after we receive the report,” minister Jain said. According to police, those who died in the fire — 10 women and seven men — were workers between 18 and 65 years, mostly from parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Most of them were paid between Rs 6,000 and Rs 10,000 a month.
“We have identified 14 of the 17 bodies… The injured workers told us they were packing firecrackers, while Jain said he ran a colour packaging unit,” DCP Gupta said.