Wednesday, Dec 07, 2022

Delhi Mundka Fire: NHRC Issues Notice To Delhi Government, To Send Team For On-Spot Probe

Delhi Mundka Fire: NHRC Issues Notice To Delhi Government, To Send Team For On-Spot Probe

The police have recovered 27 bodies and 19 people are still unaccounted for.

Mundka Fire AP Photo/Manish Swarup

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Sunday sent a notice to the Delhi government over the Mundka fire tragedy, which has claimed 27 lives, while observing the incident has established the city authorities have learnt little from past experiences.

The police have so far recovered 27 bodies following the Friday incident. Of them, 14 have been identified as women and six as men.

The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports that as many as 27 people died in a major fire in a four-storey office in Mundka, Delhi on May 13.

"Reportedly, this fire incident has once again established that the city authorities have learnt little from similar incidents in the past that exposed the utter lack of fire safety mechanisms and the gaping holes in their implementation," it said in a statement.

The panel has issued the notice to the Delhi government's chief secretary, seeking a report within two weeks that would include action taken against those responsible, fixing the culpability and status of disbursement of the relief or rehabilitation granted by the government, if any.

Issuing the notice, NHRC observed that going by media reports, "this appears to be the worst case of gross violation of human rights of the victims due to utter apathy and complete dereliction of statutory duties of public servants in the national capital of Delhi causing loss of valuable lives due to fire".

"Looking into the gravity of the matter and observing the authorities appear least bothered on its earlier recommendations in similar incidents, the commission has also asked its director-general to send a team immediately to conduct an on-spot investigation in the matter," the NHRC said in a statement.

It said that according to media reports the building had no sanctioned plan and the factory was operating without any licence.

"The fact has reportedly come out in an inquiry conducted by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation. Hundreds of buildings are operational from congested quarters with authorities struggling to curb them. There are several areas in Delhi where even fire tenders cannot enter because of rampant unauthorised constructions," the statement said.

A fire had occurred in the Anaj Mandi area of Delhi in 2019 in which 43 people had lost life, and the NHRC taking suo motu cognisance of the matter had directed the authorities to lay down an action plan to tackle the problem of illegal industrial activities in Delhi.

"Reportedly, a Special Task Force (STF) was formed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and an inter-departmental committee was formed by the civic body. The panel had submitted its action plan in the year 2020 and the STF gave its recommendations in 2021 but both have not yet been implemented," it said.

Reportedly, the probe report for fixing the culpability of officials in the Anaj Mandi fire incident was "never made public".

"It is also mentioned in the news report that the urban development department of the Delhi government had issued an order to the Delhi Fire Service and the civic bodies, relaxing some of the norms, which were made strict after the earlier fire incidents occurred in Delhi," the NHRC statement said.

The North Delhi Municipal Corporation sought from the Narela Zone authorities a detailed report, including the type of area and tentative year of construction, of the building in Mundka where a massive fire broke out claiming at least 27 lives, officials said.

The North Delhi civic body also ordered the zonal commissioners to conduct a detailed survey in their areas to find out if any prohibited activity is going on in non-conforming areas to prevent the recurrence of such a tragic incident.

The owner of a building in outer Delhi's Mundka where a massive fire led to the death of 27 people was arrested on Sunday, two days after the incident, police said here.

"We received information that Manish Lakra was going towards Haridwar in Uttarakhand. We laid a trap and nabbed him from Ghevra Mod," Sameer Sharma, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Outer), said.

Lakra used to live on the fourth floor of the commercial building, and he managed to escape to the adjacent building along with his family members when the fire broke out, the police said. 

(with inputs from PTI)