Bhagan Prasad, the oldest press machine operator at the Karol Bagh unit who died in a blaze on Monday, will no longer be around for his daughter’s wedding. The father of Aarti, the youngest victim, said he can’t believe he’ll never see her again.
On Monday, the families of those who perished in the fire said they were under the impression that the victims were working at a “legal factory” unit — even as the Delhi Police maintained the cloth packaging unit was illegal. “We will write to the MCD to find out about the documentation of the premises,” said Additional DCP (Central) Amit Sharma, adding that “the establishment has been operational since 1989”.
North Delhi Municipal Corporation officials said there are over 1,600 illegal units in Karol Bagh, based on a survey conducted this year. The Delhi Fire Services said the facility was running out of a residential building and there was no question of obtaining a no-objection certificate for fire safety.
Fire officials said the establishment was less than 200 sq-ft and did not have space for stairways for a quick exit or enough fire safety precautions.
They added that the establishment was a tinderbox, packed with clothing material, wooden furniture, a steam press and inflammable solvents.
Ajit, one of the survivors, and Dharamchandra, a former employee, claimed workers made around Rs 8,000 a month — below the standard minimum wage, and were made to work overtime.
Aarti’s father Inderpal (50) was supposed to visit her for the first time since Diwali. His daughter had told him she was working at a legitimate factory in Karol Bagh, packaging sherwanis. “She used to work even on holidays. My daughter was very adamant and did not want to get married unless she could stand on her feet,” Inderpal said.
Bhagan’s relative Vikas said he was supposed to get his elder daughter married in December. “He was the oldest worker here,” the relative said.