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Ludhiana fire tragedy: Victims cried for help, said ‘Please save us, we are trapped inside’

At that time, both of them uttered the same words, ‘Humko bacha lo. Factory mein aag lag gayi hai aur malik ne darwaza bahar se band kiya hai, (Please save us. Our factory has caught fire and the owner has locked the door from outside).

punjab Updated: Oct 11, 2018 11:54 IST
Hitesh Jain
Hitesh Jain
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
Ludhiana fire tragedy,ludhiana factory fire,Kalyan Nagar
Deputy commissioner Pradeep Kumar Agrawal (second from left) and police commissioner Sukhchain Singh Gill at the blaze site in Ludhiana on Wednesday.(HT Photo)

Minutes before they were choked to death in a hosiery factory fire at Kalyan Nagar in Ludhiana in the wee hours of Wednesday, two of the victims, Dhananjay Pandey and Satya Parkash, had managed to talk to their relatives for a few seconds.

At that time, both of them uttered the same words, ‘Humko bacha lo. Factory mein aag lag gayi hai aur malik ne darwaza bahar se band kiya hai, (Please save us. Our factory has caught fire and the owner has locked the door from outside).

Dhananjay Pandey, 40, had at 4.21 am made a distress call to his brother-in-law Diwakar, telling him about the fire. Diwakar immediately rushed to the factory, but it was too late. The blaze had engulfed the entire premises till he reached.

Following the suit, 37-year-old Satya Parkash had called up his cousin Manjeet at 4:25am and pleaded him to save his life.

“Parkash said he would die and I must do something to save his life. He could not tell me about the fire incident as the connection was lost by then. I tried calling him, but to no avail,” Manjeet said.

Diwakar said Dhananjay was survived by his wife and four children, including three minor daughters and a nine-year-old son.

“My brother-in-law’s family was fully dependent on him. My sister is in a state of shock and cannot come here for her husband’s funeral. I will perform Dhananjay’s last rites in Ludhiana and take his ashes to his native place in Bihar,” he added.

A Pilgrimage left unfulfilled

Deceased Satya Parkash’s friends recalled how he had booked the train tickets for Jammu where he was going to pay obeisance at Mata Vaishno Devi shrine along with his mother, wife and the 6-year-old son, who are presently in Uttar Pradesh.

“Those tickets are still intact in one of his trousers hanging from a hook at his one-room quarter in Sardar Nagar. Parkash used to tease us by showing those tickets. It is hard to believe that our friend is no more,” said one of his close friend, Ram Kumar.

A Wedding on the cards

“Mohammed Azad was very excited as the family was planning to get him married soon, said Mohammed Kalim, husband of the 18-year-old victim’s sister.

Wiping his tears, Kalim said, “All our dreams have been shattered. Azad had come to Ludhiana three years ago and was working as a labourer with Kalra Knitwears. His parents were dependent on him as he was their only son.”

“When I informed his 65-year-old father MD Halim, who lives at Madhepur in Bihar, about the incident, he broke into tears and the only words that came out of his mouth were, ‘Please bring my son back’,” Kalim added.

“Azad was quite close to his father and had last week returned after meeting him. That was his last goodbye to his family. I don’t know what to do and how to handle the situation,” he said.

Laughter turns into mourning

“On Monday night, we were laughing together while watching a comedy show on television. It is hard to believe that our beloved brother is no more,” said fourth victim Mohammed Rabban’s brother Mohammed Guddu.

19-year-old Rabban had joined the factory four months ago.

He used to live with his two elder brothers in Pritampura area of Ludhiana.

Guddu, 26, said, “We are seven siblings and Rabban was the youngest. He was not only my brother, but a best friend too. He was the only one with whom I used to share all my secrets.”

Guddu said as he came to know about the Rabban’s death, without uttering a word, he immediately rushed to the spot along with his elder brother Momammed Aarun.

“The same hands which held Rabban’s while playing will now have to bear the burden of his lifeless body,” an inconsolable Guddu said.

No lessons learnt from previous fires

The incident has once again put a question mark on the attitude of the Ludhiana municipal corporation (MC) towards fire safety.

Learning no lessons from the past incidents, the district administration and MC have been putting human lives at stakes by not ensuring and enforcing fire safety norms. Even the fire safety audit is going on at a snail’s pace.

Only 35 hospitals and seven buildings in the Feroze Gandhi market have been inspected by the fire safety department so far.

The state government too has failed to set up a separate fire directorate (a department independent of MC), which was last year announced by the local bodies minister, Navjot Singh Sidhu.

Ludhiana, known as the industrial hub, is sitting on a powder keg with thousands of industrial units operating without ensuring proper fire safety norms. While many owners have not obtained NOCs from the fire safety department, the authorities have also failed to enforce the law.

Old city area, including Sunder Nagar, Kalyan Nagar, Chaura Bazar and Hazuri Road, is most vulnerable as a large number of hosiery units are situated in its congested and narrow lanes. Even the fire brigade finds it difficult to enter these streets. At many areas such as Guru Nanak Nagar and Shiv Puri (Part 2), industrial units have cropped up near residential areas.

MC joint commissioner Kulpreet Singh said the fire safety audit was facing hurdles due to the staff crunch. “There are very few fire safety officials available with the department. The state government is working to set up a separate fire directorate,” he said.

First Published: Oct 11, 2018 11:13 IST