On the night of April 15, 2012, the five-storey building of Shital Fibers factory had collapsed at Jalandhar’s Focal Point when the labourers were working on blanket making heavy machinery. The building fell suddenly and labourers could not even get a chance to exit. As many as 23 were killed and 44 were injured. Four years after the tragedy, all six persons booked in the case, including the factory owner Shital Vij, were acquitted by the court, which gave them benefit of the doubt. A day after the tragedy, the then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had visited the spot and announced special safety audits in all industrial units of the state to avoid such disaster in future.
Over five-and-a-half years later, a similar mishap happened in Ludhiana on Monday when the six-storey building collapsed even as firefighters were fighting the blaze there. Till Tuesday evening, the toll had already reached 13.
In all these years, no such special safety audit of industrial units was ever conducted in Punjab, which has around 2.50 lakh industrial units.
“No such special safety audit was ever conducted in any industrial unit, apart from some routine ones in a few hazardous industrial units all these years. We too want such audits to avoid any mishap in any unit,” says Charanjit Singh Maingi, general secretary of Jalandhar Chamber of Industries and Commerce. Such audits, however, must be conducted but in friendly atmosphere and should not be anti-industry, he says. “If any industry has compromised safety norms, it should be given proper time to rectify things instead taking any serious step.”
“It should be be used to harass the industry,” Maingi says.
Rakesh Verma, administrative secretary of state’s industry department, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. An SMS sent to him asking about the safety audit in industry went unanswered.