A short circuit in a “sub meter” on the second floor has been established by forensic experts as the cause of the fire at the five-storey Anaj Mandi building, where 43 people died in Sunday’s blaze. Survivors, too, told police they had informed the building caretaker Mohammad Furkan as well as the contractors who got them jobs about sparking in the sub meters several times, but no action was taken.
The Special Investigation Unit of the Crime Branch has so far recorded statements of 13 men injured in the fire. “Mohammad Muqeem (27), a survivor who hails from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, said he had been working in the building for the last eight years under one Munna, who was running a cap manufacturing unit on the third floor, where nine others were working. Around 10-12 industrial sewing machines were installed in the building, and direct connections from the main meter on the ground floor were drawn using naked wires. Each floor had six sub meters. Muqeem said they had seen sparks at these sub meters in the past,” the officer said.
Sources told The Indian Express that the property was purchased by prime accused Mohammed Rehan’s father and father-in-law in 2004, when it was only three storeys tall. Rehan allegedly constructed two more floors without laying a lintel. “During questioning, Rehan told police that in 2009-2010, he applied for relocation under a scheme by the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC), but was found ineligible. He then paid Rs 55 lakh for a plot in Narela to a person who had qualified for the DSIIDC initiative. But once he began shifting there, Rehan faced losses because of increased transportation costs and unsafe working conditions. He eventually sold that property for Rs 43 lakh and decided to continue operations at Anaj Mandi, where he let out 15 of the 18 rooms in the building to 15 tenants,” an officer said.
On Tuesday, Rehan and Furkan were taken to the spot to get details of their tenants as well as the sub meters they had installed. “Rehan disclosed that seven commercial power connections had been taken for the building with a total load of around 80kW. Of these, two connections of 23kW and 27kW were in Rehan’s name. The other connections were in the names of his mother-in-law, wife, brother and brother-in-law. They also installed 18 sub meters for all 18 rooms. Furkan was hired at Rs 15,000 per month and he collected rent on the behalf of the owners,” a senior police officer said. The rooms were rented out for Rs 8,000-15,000 a month depending on the size.
Explaining the building ownership, Rehan is learnt to have told police that apart from him, his brother Imran, who is absconding, owned part of the property along with his brother-in-law. Rehan got the ground floor and first floor of the building, Imran owned two rooms on the ground floor — both vacant. The second, third and fourth floors have 18 rooms, of which Rehan owns 10, and the other two men own four each,” an officer said.