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Mundka Fire: CTU’s March to Residence of CM Kejriwal Barricaded

Union leaders demand the strictest punishment for the culprits behind the fire incident in Mundka and Rs 50 lakh as an ex-gratia amount for the families who lost their loved ones.
Mundka Fire: CITU’s March to Residence of CM Kejriwal Barricaded

The Delhi police stopped the march mid way. | Image: Ronak Chhabra

Trade unions in the city marched to the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday, demanding the strictest punishment for the culprits behind the fire incident in Mundka and Rs 50 lakh as an ex-gratia amount for the families who lost their loved ones.

Called by INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC, MEC, ICTU, and IFTU, the march was, however, stopped mid-way by police and the protesting workers held a public meeting there.

A commercial building in West Delhi’s Mundka was ravaged, purportedly after a short circuit, earlier last month, claiming at least 27 lives, 21 of whom were women. An initial probe has pointed towards an array of safety norms brazenly flouted by the building owner and the owners of the CCTV and WiFi router manufacturing unit operating within the said premises.

On Thursday, union leaders claimed that the responsibility lies with the Delhi government as well, which has “learnt no lessons from similar incidents in the past.”

A preliminary inquiry by the erstwhile North Delhi Municipal Corporation (now, Delhi Municipal Corporation) had highlighted that the manufacturing unit in the said building was operating without a factory license.

It also revealed that the building was possibly located in the Lal Dora (village land) area of the Mundka village, where industrial activities are not allowed.

There are thousands of such buildings in the national capital, where many workers are currently employed, who do not feel safe at all, Siddheshwar Shukla of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) told NewsClick on Thursday.

“When will the Delhi government wake up and ensure that safety norms under the labour laws are properly implemented in the city?” he asked. Shukla demanded that the area factory inspector be immediately suspended for “his negligence.”

In the last five years, the city has witnessed three deadly fire incidents in which 77 people lost their lives. 17 people died after a firecracker warehouse in North Delhi’s Bawana witnessed a massive fire in 2018. The next year, 17 more were killed as fire engulfed several hotel storeys in Central Delhi’s Karol Bagh. Months later, a major blaze in North Delhi’s Anaj Mandi claimed the lives of 43 people.

During the same period, not even a single meeting of the labour department over industrial safety, in which a delegation of trade unions is invited, has been called, NewsClick was informed earlier.

Maimoona Mollah, president, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) – Delhi, said on Thursday that amidst such a situation, women workers feel “even more unsafe” than their male colleagues.

“Women workers are not even paid equal pay for equal work; their monthly payments are also below the minimum wages,” she said.

The Delhi government is also not sensitive enough to the difficulties that the working-class families go through after losing an earning member, said Dhirendra Sharma of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), flaying the former for announcing an ex-gratia that is “not adequate”.

CM Kejriwal had announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those who got injured in the Mundka blaze.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s protest was staged a day after several family members of the victims of the Mundka fire held a protest outside the said building, seeking the reports of the DNA tests conducted by the authorities on the yet-to-be-identified bodies.

Of the 27 bodies that were recovered, only eight have been identified, according to a report by news agency PTI. The Delhi Police had earlier said that it had collected biological samples of 26 people for DNA profiling.

On Wednesday, PTI reported the family members claiming that it has been over two weeks since the devastating incident took place, but the remains of several victims have not been handed over to their families.

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