NHRC takes suo motu cognizance of Delhi fire killing 43 people at Filmistan’s Anaj Mandi; 5 Storey building turned in a lethal gas chamber

The National Human Rights Commission, India has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that at least 43 people were killed at Filmistan’s Anaj Mandi area in central Delhi early Sunday morning, when a blaze caused by a short-circuit and turned a five-story building in a lethal gas chamber, where 100 to 150 people were sleeping, choking most of the victims to death.

The news further reported that the building housed a dozen illegal manufacturing units and warehouses being run from ill-ventilated rooms filled with combustible material. As reported in the media, there was just one narrow entrance to the building spread across an area of 500 square yards, which ensured that fire officials and engines did not had an opportunity to reach at the site.

The Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi; Commissioner of Police, Delhi and the Commissioner, North Delhi Municipal Corporation, calling for a detailed report in the matter within six weeks along with action taken against the errant officers/officials along with relief and rehabilitation provided to the next of kin of the deceased and the injured persons.

A notice has also been issued to the Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India with the expectation that a Committee of Experts may be formed to look into the matters relating to the violation of norms by the building owners/shopkeepers/individuals/firms, who are conducting commercial activities in the residential areas by encroaching public roads in connivance with public officials of different agencies. The Committee must look into the Master Plan of Delhi and to take all adequate and appropriate measures by examining all issues of illegal construction, misuse of rules/norms and use of factory area for residential purposes, thoroughly and submit its report with their suggestions to streamline all the congested areas within Delhi to make it more save and worth living for the citizens. The response is expected within six weeks.

The Commission has observed that it seems the authorities have not learnt any lessons from the tragic incidents occurred in the recent past and incident like Anaj Mandi fire catastrophe was waiting to happen. Apparently, no one seems to bother about the rules/norms, which are to be followed by the building owners, authorities of the Municipal Corporations of Delhi, local administration, police and the fire safety authorities. The painful incident could have been avoided and the precious human lives could be saved, had the norms been not violated by the authorities responsible to maintain fire safety of each of the buildings in congested places as well as the owner of the building, who had shown scant regards to the rule of law. Loss of lives, at such magnitude, of the people from disadvantaged group also causes a serious threat to the safety and security of the life and livelihood of the daily wagers in the unorganised sectors since they do not have any secure place of living within the city.

Recalling its earlier interventions in similar incidents in the recent past in Delhi , the Commission further observed that the deaths in Arpit Palace Hotel in Karol Bagh due to fire as well as death of workers in an illegal Karol Bagh factory as the steam boiler caught fire, it had asked the authorities to streamline the process of fire auditing, which remained in deaf ear as the authorities failed to act promptly with some kind of alacrity, resulting this horrific and devastating incident causing loss of life of so many persons.

According to the media reports, carried today on 9th December, 2019, the fire started on the second floor around 04:30 a.m. and quickly spread through stakes of paper, card board, plastic and other items lying around. The units doubled up as residences for the labourers at night.

It is also reported that before many of the workers on the third and fourth floors could realise what was happening, they had passed away as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. It is also reported that out of these 43 victims, 39 of them died due to asphyxiation. Reportedly, the owner of the building along with Manager was arrested and a case has been registered under appropriate Sections of IPC.

National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 09-12-2019]

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