A large number of people were rendered homeless in a major fire that broke out at the Takia Kale Khan jhuggi-jhompri cluster on Mata Sundari Marg here on Friday. No casualties were reported.

The fire, which apparently started from a heap of waste material around 9 a.m.. soon engulfed the jhuggis causing panic among the slum-dwellers. Over two dozen fire tenders were rushed to the spot and the blaze was doused around noon.

Most of the belongings of the slum-dwellers were gutted in the fire. “I have lost everything in the fire. From my last few years’ savings to my rickshaw to the kitchenware, every thing has been burnt down. I don’t have even a pair of clothe to put on,” said rickshaw-puller Jamaluddin Khan, who was sleeping in his jhuggi when the fire broke out.

The case of Jahan Ara, a domestic worker, was no different. On Friday morning she had gone in to see her sister who was admitted to the JPN Hospital. But she had to rush back to her shanty just to see it being burnt down to ashes. “The fire took every thing I had saved since the past seven years. Now I am left with a sister who is ill and a burnt down house. I cannot even get my sister treated in the hospital as I lost whatever savings I had,” Ms. Ara said.

A major concern for the slum dwellers was that the fire destroyed their identification proofs like ration card, election ID card and Aadhar cards without which they will not be able to avail of government schemes and will also become a target of harassment of the local authorities.

Sunita Maurya, one of the affected slum-dwellers, said, “It will take us years to build our lives again from scratch. At present I have no idea how my family is going to do that because nothing is left except the charred kitchenware”.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. “The fire could have been caused due to smouldering cigarette thrown into open dump of waste material like plastic, gas cylinders, wooden material,” said Delhi Fire Services Director A.K. Sharma.

Additional Commissioner of Police (Central) Devesh Chandra Srivastava said about 150 jhuggis were gutted in the fire and alternative arrangements for food and lodging were being made for the displaced slum dwellers.

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