Millennium Post

Sadar Bazaar fire: One day on, residents sift ash in hope to find what they lost

A day after a massive fire gutted nearly 320 slums near the railway tracks at North Delhi’s Sadar Bazaar area on Monday evening, more than 5,000 slum dwellers were left without a roof. 

Forced to sleep on the roadside of Sadar Bazaar market, locals shared how their houses, furniture and their hard-earned money stacked in their hutments were charred to ashes within a few minutes in the Monday evening inferno. 

Trickling back to her now charred home on Tuesday morning, it was the silent class XII student of a Khari Baoli-based government school who shared how she lost all her books to the fire. Preparing for the Class XII Board examinations due n March 2017, 16-year-old Raveena told Millennium Post that it was minutes after she took a break from her schedule that the tragedy struck the slums. She said: “I had gone to a nearby makeshift toilet to relieve myself when I got to know that a fire broke out.”

Standing next to her, Asha, her 14-year-old friend, added that Ravina allegedly tried to jump into the fire just to save her textbooks. “My pre-board exams will start in December. I studied throughout the year. Now how will I give my exams without the textbooks?” lamented Ravina. Metres away from Ravina, Sangeeta Kumari, another local, expressed how it was not the first time that such a mishap had taken place. “This place has burnt down in the past as well. In an interval of every two to three years, fire incidents have occurred here four times.”

Cleaning the soot from the ground of her charred home, Meena, another local resident is seen preparing a suitable place for her five children and her husband to sleep at night. 

“On Monday night, we all had to sleep on the roadside.” Talking about her loss, she added: “We came here from Khagariya and have been working as small time labourers. The moment the fire broke out, our first thought was to save our children. Bachho se bad kar kaunsi punji hai? (No amount of money is greater than our children’s lives). The fire kept raging for three hours. It was only on Tuesday morning that we started returning to the ruins of our houses. All our furniture, clothes, ration cards, everything was reduced to ashes. For the eldest of our three daughters, my husband had saved Rs 10,000 for her marriage. Now all is gone,” reminisced Meena.

Several woman like Meena shared how they have incurred financial losses of anything between Rs 25,000 to Rs 80,000. Bitiya Devi shared: “Had the fire tenders reached on time, our lifelong belongings and savings could have been saved or the loss incurred would have been much lesser in magnitude. The fire started at 

7.10 pm but the first fire tender came only at 8.30 pm,” alleged Kishor Gupta, another local.

A senior police officer said that they have registered a case under Section 438 of the IPC at the Sadar Bazaar police station. “We are investigating if there is any foulplay,” said the cop.
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