Two days before a fire in North Delhi’s Anaj Mandi claimed 43 lives, a licencing officer of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation had red-flagged a plastic moulding machine installed on the ground floor. The machine was not supposed to be used in a non-industrial area and its use can attract coercive action, such as sealing.
“The officer came back with photographs of the first-floor installation and it was clear that the unit would be issued a show-cause notice to explain why it shouldn’t be shut since illegal activity was observed. Since the officer could not access the top two floors, he returned and a notice was not issued,” said North civic body commissioner Varsha Joshi.
Under scanner in SC too
The Supreme Court is hearing the matter of unauthorised/non-conforming polluting units operating in the city and had directed municipal corporations to take swift action against them. Over the past three months, 4,552 units have been surveyed, and showcause sealing notices have been sent to 3,376 units. Till December 8, the day of the fire, 1,307 units were reported closed while 390 were sealed.
Officials said Anaj Mandi is a mixed land use area, where retail shops are allowed to operate along with household industries. In Delhi, a little over 110 domestic industries are allowed to operate from houses. This includes trades like repair, packaging, assembly, clay modelling, data processing and making cardboard boxes and candles. Plastic moulding machines cannot be set up in households.
In the case of Anaj Mandi, several illegal units operating out of residential buildings would manufacture items to be sold in nearby Sadar Bazar.
The internal enquiry report of the North Corporation, which is awaited, is expected to fix accountability of erring officials under whose jurisdiction the illegal operation thrived.
On Tuesday, police accompanied a corporation official to measure the height of the building, which was supposed to be residential in nature. The measurement, however, revealed that the building did not meet the height criteria as it was 17 metres tall, as opposed to the permissible height of 15 metres. It is the responsibility of the municipal building department to check illegal buildings.
Since Monday, the corporation has surveyed 186 buildings under their jurisdiction, of which 13 have been sealed, 425 were issued showcause notices and 226 were found to be vacant.