As 17 workers were charred at an illegal factory in Bawana, 50-year-old Manoj Jain, accused of being the owner of the illegal firecracker packaging unit, was sitting with his family 40 km away at his home in Tri Nagar. He knew a fire had broken out, but could not muster the courage to go to the police station.
Police sources said that a team of Shahbad Dairy police reached his house late Saturday night, and found him there.
“When the police team reached, he was standing on the balcony. He refused to tell them his name, and said he was staying on rent. However, one of his sons opened the main gate, and he was arrested,” said a police officer.
Neighbours claimed that the family has been residing there for decades, and set up temporary, seasonal businesses in factories to make money. “Jain runs a rakhi business. He initially set it up at home and later expanded it. We know they also took up packaging of colours before Holi, but this is the first time we are hearing of firecrackers,” said a neighbour. Jain has two sons who now manage the rakhi business. Jain resides in a three-storey house in the densely located Ganesh Pura, where many residents run small-scale businesses manufacturing incense sticks and socks. Since the arrest, his home has been lying vacant.
The co-accused in the case, Lalit Goel, lives in the same locality. Since the incident, though, he has not been seen in the area. Police suspect Goel and Jain were business partners in the Bawana unit.
Police said the two received the explosive powder from Hathras in Uttar Pradesh. At the Bawana unit, the powder would be mixed with colours and packaged. Police also discovered that the accused were running a similar set-up nearby before shifting to the ill-fated building on January 1. Sources said the input has been shared with the Crime Branch, which has taken over the probe.
On Monday, a team from the Crime Branch — led by Deputy Commissioner of Police Joy Tirkey — visited the building to collect evidence. Police sources said the Crime Branch has started looking for Goel. Police also found that the firecrackers would be sent to wholesale markets across Delhi and NCR. The Crime Branch also plans to expose the entire network used to procure and make explosives.
According to the FIR, registered on the basis of a complaint by a policeman, a large quantity of cardboard for packing firecrackers was recovered from inside the building. A huge quantity of combustible material was also recovered, police said. The FIR further said that there was only one entry and exit gate, and no fire extinguisher.
Delhi Police, after the incident, had registered a case under sections of culpable homicide and the Explosives Act.