Drunk guard, locked gate: What went into making of Bawana fire
The lives of all the workers who were inside the firecracker factory at Bawana that burnt down could have been saved if the main gate was not locked from outside, said a survivor who left the industrial unit half an hour before the incident.
A source, quoting the statements given by laboureres at the site, told Mail Today on Sunday: “Based on the orders of Manoj Jain, owner of the factory, the security guard used to lock the main gate at 6pm every day. Though the guard used to sit outside, he never allowed anyone to come out or leave early. As a result, labourers working overtime had to complete their six hour-long extra shift by remaining inside the three-storey building.”
The fire that set ablaze the factory’s two floors on Saturday evening claimed 17 lives, including 10 women. Observers say the entire national Capital is a virtual tinderbox as civic agencies have, over the years, granted licences to industrial units violating norms.
The security guard was one of the witnesses who saw the factory going up in flames. At the time, he was allegedly under the influence of alcohol and could not respond quickly. Police officers close to the investigation said they are aware about these charges and an investigation is underway.
Sources said the locked gate was not the only peril for workers at F-83, the factory where the incident occurred. Apart from a first-floor balcony and a terrace, there was no other escape route. The few windows present were welded shut with wire meshes and iron grills.
“Apart from jumping from a 30-foot terrace, there was no other way out. The only other way to escape the fire would have been to leap off the firstfloor balcony, but chances are that many jumpers would not even clear the gate and end up falling head-first into the inferno,” said a source.
Jain, the factory owner,will be produced before a court on Monday. Delhi Police arrested him late on Saturday night and booked him under the Explosives Act as the “plastics” factory was operated along with packing of cold crackers and smoke crackers used in ceremonies and events, etc.
According to the police, the unit operated illegally. On Sunday, Delhi Police chief AmulyaPatnaik transferred the case to the crime branch. Sources say the labourers were recruited on false information.
“They hired us saying that we have to pack plastic granules in bottles. We were to be paid Rs 6,000- Rs 8,000 and if we work overtime, then we were to be paid Rs 10,000. But when we started working at the factory, we found explosives instead of plastic granules,” one of the workers told Mail Today.
“Initially we didn’t raise an alarm, but after a few days when some of us started having health issues, we spoke out. Those who suffered severe health issues left the job within five days. The supervisor of the factory, Ajeet Ranjan, assured us that very soon the consignment of plastic granules would reach. Since then he started keeping a close watch on each one of us.”
Ranjan, 22, also died in the fire. The others killed have been identified as Baby Devi (40), Afshana (35), Sonam (23),Reeta (18), Madeena (55), Rajjo (65), Suraj (20), Ravikant (18), Sukhda (42), Khsna (47), Sony (21), Rohit (19) and Sanjeet (19). The postmortem examination was conducted at Baba Saheb Ambedkar hospital.
“An FSL team visited the factory again on Sunday and did an extensive search of the premises for about four hours with the assistance of the police.
The samples have been picked up from the site for detailed examination and also to ascertain whether the firecrackers were meant for use in stage shows,” said Rajneesh Gupta, DCP (Rohini).