'Even after plaints against factories; no intervention'
New Delhi: "We woke up early in the morning and started hearing the screams of the workers in the factory. People in the neighbourhood started raising alarm and the fire services reached the spot within half an hour. Smoke also started entering adjacent buildings," one resident of the Anaj Mandi said, adding that such a tragedy was something no one had anticipated.
Multiple factories were operating out of the factory building that caught fire early on Sunday morning and were involved in plastic manufacturing, tiffin-box making, jacket assembly and purse making.
Noor Mohammad, a close friend of many workers in the blazing factory spoke of the horrifying fire, saying that he kept calling his friends inside the building but no one would respond. "Initially, we thought they must be asleep and then we found out the scale of the fire and starting losing hope," Noor said. Mohammad's grandfather, aged 65 perished in the blaze along with his own son-in-law, who is survived by three children and a young wife.
"Take care of my family, I would not survive the Delhi fire," Mohammed Musharaf told his friend Monu Agarwal in Bijnore on his last call before perishing in the fire that killed 42 other workers in an Anaj Mandi factory building. Monu had also asked Musharaf to consider jumping out of the building to which he had said help would come to him soon. Unfortunately, it did not reach him soon enough.
While residents have largely maintained that such factories started popping up in the neighbourhood only 10-15 years ago, Phool Singh, an advocate, living in the area for more than 20 years, said people also eventually started renting out their houses to factory owners just to earn more money.
"The landlords did not care about other residents' safety," Singh added. He further said that there are more than 200 to 300 families living in the area.
Another resident, Neelam Baindarwal lives in a house surrounded by factories sharing her common wall on three sides. "After the incident, the smoke entered my house and it was tough to breathe. I came to the terrace with my family for some air," she said. Bainderwal continued that the area is always full of combustible materials like spare wood, wooden boxes, plastic items and tyres. "Interestingly, as soon as other factory owners in the area found out about the fire, they were quick to shutter their premises, out of fear of inviting unwanted scrutiny," she added.
Jitender Kumar, who lives in the house beside Bainderwal's, spoke to Millennium Post about the problems he and his family have had to face since the factories started coming up in the area.
"Every time the factories would start up their machinery, my house would tremble. It has come to a point, where I have large cracks on my wall because of it," Kumar said. While he said that he has approached multiple enforcement authorities with the issue of factories disturbing life by violating regulations, none have acted on his complaints so far. As a result of continued and unfettered construction in the area, the entire neighbourhood had become a safety risk, he added.
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