Fire at illegal units continues to kill, Delhi refuses to learn

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BY ROHAN AGARWAL
New Delhi, Dec 10 (IANS)
While the Sunday’s fire at an illegally-run unit in the Anaj Mandi area of North-West Delhi that killed 43 people shocked the nation, IANS study of similar cases of the past two years points to loss of over 80 lives in similar incidents at unauthorized establishments with narrow passages and no fire safety provisions.
After every fire accident, the authorities in a knee-jerk response become active, clamp down on similar units and premises, and even seal a few of them, only to return to their slumber as the ashes from the fire cool down.
In the past two years, 84 lives have been lost as fires razed illegal factories, hotels and restaurants.
In January 2018, when a fire broke out at an illegal firecrackers factory, claiming 17 lives, the authorities talked big, launched a clamp down, announced a survey of such establishments, served notices and even sealed few such units.
Just 11 months later on November 19, 2018, when another fire at an illegally-run garments unit in Karol Bagh claimed 4 lives, the authorities started the protocol of surveys, notices and sealed few such establishments.
But while people and authorities tend to forget unpleasant incidents, such mishaps have the tendency to revisit if you refused to learn a lesson from the past event.
Just three months later, in February 2019, a fire at the Arpit Hotel in Karol Bagh killed 17 and left many injured. A probe into the incident revealed that the establishment had been flouting all the relevant rules and regulations.
This time, the authorities ran a campaign against hotels and restaurants. Many eateries, restaurants and bars faced the clamp down. All rule books were dusted, relevant regulations, like no kitchens in the basement and on roof-tops, were reminded, notices were served and raids conducted.
And it was back to the routine after few days, till July when a residential building, being used as a rubber factory and a packaging unit for sanitary products, caught fire. Four workers paid the price with their lives for working at such an unit and several others received scars on their memory.
For authorities, it was just to do their routine and return to the cocoon to await another such incident.
Speaking on the Sunday incident, Jaiprakash, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, informed the media that the civic body had surveyed the building just two days before the fire, but failed to ascertain the reason for presence of an illegal establishment there for over a decade.
He instead opted for the political blame game and aimed his gun towards the Aam Aadmi Party-led state government.
“We have surveyed over 5,000 buildings and issued notices to more than 3,000. Around 300 such places have been sealed.
“But the Anaj Mandi establishment had support of AAP leaders and that’s why it went unchecked for so long,” Jaiprakash told IANS.
The fire accidents are nothing new for the residents as well as the authorities of the national capital. Only irony is while all those responsible and concerned talk of actions taken and being taken to curb such incidents, people continues to lose lives. Will someone take the responsibility for that?

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