Bawana fire: ‘Factory was operating without licence’

Police personnel stand guard outside the factoryon Sunday.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The firecracker factory at the Bawana Industrial Area, where 17 workers were killed in a blaze on Saturday, was operating without a licence, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation confirmed on Sunday.

The civic body, which is responsible for giving necessary permits to factories in the area, said they had received an online application for licence for the factory back in 2014 but it was rejected.

“The North Corporation has not issued any licence on property number F-83, Sector-5, Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC), in Bawana,” a senior official said.

The official said it also appeared that the sale of the factory happened illegally since the name of the owner in the initial application received by the North Corporation was Uma Mittal but the present proprietor is identified as Lalit Goel.

“Sale of factories is not allowed as per a court order since these industries have been relocated and the land has been provided to them at a subsidised rate. This is another violation, along with operating without a licence,” he added.

Political blame game

Though the civic body has clearly brushed off responsibility for negligence, the issue snowballed into a political blame game after North Delhi Mayor Preety Agarwal was caught telling an official that they cannot comment on the incident because the licensing of the factory lies within their authority.

Is factory ki licensing humare paas hai, isliye hum kuch nahi bol sakte [the licensing of the factory is with us, hence we can’t say anything],” she is heard whispering to an aide in a video captured by a news agency.

The video has been widely shared on social media and was retweeted by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Ms. Aggarwal, however, said that she only meant that “We shouldn’t say anything about such unfortunate incidents at this time.” She also demanded an apology from the Chief Minister.

“Is making a fake video viral and confusing the public fair? It’s condemnable and I expect Arvind Kejriwal ji to apologise,” she said.

She also reiterated that though the permits are issued by the municipality, the monitoring agency is the DSIIDC, which is responsible for looking into whether the factories are being run for unsafe activities. It is under the Delhi government and so is the Delhi Fire Service (DFS) which is supposed to give fire clearance certificates to these units.

Interim report

The interim report of the DSIIDC, which is responsible for setting up industrial areas including the one in Bawana, found that the site was being used illegally to package or store fireworks.

“The activity mentioned at the time of allotment [of the 100 square metre plot] was plastic goods...But it was gathered from the site that the premises was being used to carry out packing/storing of firecrackers/explosives without obtaining due clearances/permissions from the authorities,” the report said.

It also said that manufacturing of explosives is among the list of industries prohibited by the Master Plan of Delhi-2021 and that the municipal corporation “is mandated to stop and not allow any such industrial activity not permitted in the NCT of Delhi.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Satyendra Jain lashed out at the North Corporation saying that if they cannot manage the licensing, then they should hand it over to the government. “Strict action will be taken against anyone found guilty of negligence, even if it is a government official,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 6:18:39 PM |

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