Delhi building collapse and story of an unregulated jeans industry
Stuck in the grey-brown debris of the multi-storey building that collapsed in Vishnu Garden area of west Delhi, killing at least four people and injuring several others, were packs of blue jeans.
On Sunday morning, as cranes heaped rubble from the building in an adjoining playground, more such bundles of trousers could be seen lying scattered in the debris.
“These jeans that you see in the heap belong to my maternal uncle. Like many others in this area, he was a trader of jeans garments. He used to collect branded trousers with manufacturing defects in lots from factories and store them in a room inside the building before selling them,” said Syed Khan, a resident of Vishnu Nagar for the past 30 years.
His maternal uncle, Khan added, was lucky to survive the collapse on Saturday night as he had gone to his ancestral village in Uttar Pradesh for Eid-ul-Fitr.
Bundles of blue jeans can be seen in the debris. (Abhishek Saha/HT Photo)
He explained that those who living in the collapsed building were all involved in the jeans business, which thrives in the area. The affected people were jeans traders, street-side vendors or workers in jeans factories, he said.
"It's Allah's grace that it was Eid yesterday and most jeans traders and workers were back in their villages. Otherwise hundreds of workers would have been buried under the collapsed building," he said, adding the area surrounding the structure is a busy jeans trading area at any time.
"The jeans industry boomed in the last seven to eight years. And it has a direct relation to what happened last night," said Jaspreet Singh, an MBA student who resides in the lane next to the collapsed building.
"Because of this business, new floors were added in a haphazard fashion to the existing one- or two-storey buildings. It is easy money, you know. The poor workers come from villages to work in factories or shops and take up rooms on rent to stay," he added.
The congested lanes of Vishnu Nagar are dotted with showrooms selling garments made of denim. Local residents said the neighbourhood houses hundreds of such shops and wholesale stores. In addition to it, the area has hundreds of small industries in which jeans garments are manufactured.
Some said it was unfortunate that the jeans industry, which drives the economy here, led to several local residents becoming greedy and allegedly using corrupt methods to expand their buildings.
"The situation is sad. The manufacturing and selling of jeans is what fills our stomachs. But yes, the thriving industry has given rise to greed. Owners pile on floor after floor with or without necessary permissions and rent them out to workers coming from villages in Uttar Pradesh. That is why the area has become so congested and cramped," said Junaid Khan, who owns a jeans store.
Kuldeep Singh, who runs a garment store and claims to be one of the few Hindus associated with the trade, which is predominately a Muslim occupation, echoed similar concerns.
"Those who died or are injured are poor workers. Most people who own buildings here don’t give a damn about rules and regulations. The building which collapsed had three stories constructed over the existing two, which were themselves in a ramshackle state. And then, the owner was beginning to construct a sixth storey," Singh said.
"So, tell me, what can be done to contain this lalach (greed)?"
When contacted, director of South Delhi Municipal Corporation, Mukesh Yadav told HT that he doesn't have any ready information regarding the jeans factories, but would let the correspondent know after an inspection.