Taking suo moto cognizance of media reports that as many as 27 people died in a major fire in an office building in Mundka, Delhi, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Sunday sent a notice to the Delhi government. Slamming the Kejriwal government for its laxity in handling the tragic incident, the statutory body observed the fact that the city authorities have “learned little” from the past experiences.
The fire broke out in Mundka, on Delhi’s border with Bahadurgarh, Haryana, in the late afternoon on Friday, May 13. The inferno resulted in 27 dead bodies and 29 others going missing.
Looking at the severity of the incident, the statutory body has decided to send a team immediately to conduct an on-spot investigation into the matter.
“The NHRC has taken suo moto cognizance of media reports that as many as 27 people died in the Mundka fire incident,” the NHRC said in a statement. “Reportedly, this incident proved that the city authorities have learned little from similar incidents in the past that exposed the utter lack of fire safety mechanisms,” the NHRC notice read.
The panel has sent a notice to the Delhi government’s chief secretary, requesting a report within two weeks detailing the actions taken against those responsible, as well as the status of any assistance or rehabilitation offered by the government.
While issuing the notice NHRC observed that going by media reports, “this appears to be the worst case of gross violation of human rights of the victims due to utter apathy and complete dereliction of statutory duties of public servants in the national capital of Delhi causing loss of valuable lives due to fire”.
The human rights body expressed its displeasure while stating that according to media reports the building had no sanctioned plan and the factory was operating without any license.
“The fact has reportedly come out in an inquiry conducted by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation. Hundreds of buildings are operational in congested quarters with authorities struggling to curb them. There are several areas in Delhi where even fire tenders cannot enter because of rampant unauthorized constructions,” the statement said.
It mentioned another similar incident that took place in the Anaj Mandi area of Delhi in 2019 in which 43 people had lost their lives. The NHRC said that it had then taken suo moto cognizance of the matter and directed the authorities to lay down an action plan to tackle the problem of illegal industrial activities in Delhi. “Reportedly, a Special Task Force (STF) was formed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, and an inter-departmental committee was formed by the civic body. The panel had submitted its action plan in the year 2020 and the STF gave its recommendations in 2021 but both have not yet been implemented,” it said.
It mentioned how that probe report regarding fixing the culpability of officials in the Anaj Mandi fire incident was also “never made public”.
The NHRC statement further read, “it is also mentioned in the news report that the urban development department of the Delhi government had issued an order to the Delhi Fire Service and the civic bodies, relaxing some of the norms, which were made strict after the earlier fire incidents occurred in Delhi.”
“Looking into the gravity of the matter and observing the authorities appear least bothered on its earlier recommendations in similar incidents, the commission has also asked its director-general to send a team immediately to conduct an on-spot investigation in the matter,” the NHRC said in a statement.
Fire tenders reach 1.5 hours late
When a fire broke out in a building in Mundka, a crane operator passing by the area used his crane to rescue more than 50 lives. Dayanand Tiwari, a crane operator, used his crane to rescue more than 50 lives during a fire in Delhi’s Mundka on May 13. He was on his way from Mundka Udyog Nagar when he noticed the fire. He hurried near the scene with his crane, saving many lives before fire tenders arrived.
According to the crane operator, fire tenders arrived at the scene around 1.5 hours after the fire broke. Initially, 15 fire engines came to the scene and began the rescue effort. Later, almost 30 fire tenders were involved in the efforts to extinguish the fire.
Recurring major fire incidents in Delhi
So far, six significant fires have occurred in the country’s capital. These accidents have claimed the lives of around 200 individuals. Every time there is an inquiry after a fire, it is discovered that carelessness is the leading cause of such events.
Prior to the Mundka tragedy, the most recent significant fire in Delhi occurred on December 8, 2019. Early in the morning, a major fire broke out at a four-storey factory on Rani Jhansi Road in the heart of the city. This terrible fire killed 43 workers in the factory. Earlier this year, on the intervening night of February 11 and 12, a fire broke out at Hotel Arpit in the Karol Bagh, in this incident, 17 persons died.
In 2018, there was again a significant fire accident in Delhi. The accident occurred in January 2018, when a fire broke out in an illegal firecracker factory in Bawana, killing 17 persons.
Nevertheless, the Uphaar Cinema fire remains the worst fire disaster in Delhi. On June 13, 1997, there was a devastating fire at Uphaar Cinema in South Delhi. The movie ‘Border’ was playing at the time, and the theatre was jam-packed. This accident claimed the lives of 59 persons. According to witnesses, the fire engines arrived at the scene half an hour later, which resulted in even more casualties.
CM Kejriwal away in Kerala
After such a massive tragedy in his home state, people expecting anything from the serving Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal were left severely disappointed. After a cursory visit to the site of the tragedy, the CM left for Kerala soon after to continue his political campaign, without elaborating on any plans to curb these regular tragedies in Delhi on this watch.