Delhi Fire: In Last Call to Brother, Victim Said, ‘Please Save Me’
Relatives of those who died in Delhi’s Anaj Mandi fire explain how seasonal wages was the biggest pull for victims.
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
“Had spoken to my brother last evening, he sounded fine. Then I got an early morning call from him at 5 am saying, please save me, there are very little chances of me surviving,” recalls Mohd Rizwan who lost his two brothers in the Anaj Mandi fire tragedy on 8 December 2019 that left more than 40 people dead.
Rizwan’s two brothers, Imran and Ikram, were working at a factory in Sadar Bazar’s Anaj Mandi since 2009. Both used to earn somewhere between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000 per month, depending on the number of plastic packets produced.
It was these earnings which would help their family cope with expenses back in Rawana village in UP’s Moradabad district. Sitting hysterically outside Lok Nayak Hospital’s emergency ward, Rizwan says, “Duniya se aadmi chala jata hai, uska zikr nahi hota (Once someone dies, no one asks abouts him).”
While Imran has three daughters, his younger brother Ikram is survived by a son and daughter who live in Moradabad. “So many lives have been lost, their parents are left suffering here,” says Rizwan talking about his 60-year-old father who received news about the death of his two sons, aged 37 and 25 respectively this evening.
Shamshul Zama, a local of Anaj Mandi knew the brothers, Imran and Ikram, very well as he used to give orders for plastic packets to them.
Soon after the news of the incident spread, Shamshul managed to sneak inside the narrow lane and reached the exact spot where fire had started. Imran was already dead by then.
According to Shamshul, while Ikram’s body was later identified at LNJP Hospital, they are still looking for the bodies of three labourers who used to work under the brothers.
Kasim, a local from Delhi’s Nawada colony, told The Quint that he has lost around 11 people known to him, who hailed from the same village in Bihar’s Saharsa district.
“Out of 11 (from my village) who went missing, we have identified three bodies so far. One person, whose name is Mubarak, has been admitted to the hospital. Sajeem, Ghiyassuddin and one more child who lived close to my house died in the accident.”Kasim
While Mohd Sajeem was 52 years old, the second victim named by Kasim was 19-year-old Ghiyasuddin. Both of them were migrant labourers who would come to Delhi as and when there was a demand for daily wage labourers.
According to Kasim, since this was the winter season, people from his village had flocked to the capital to make some money by making jackets. Most of the labourers from Saharsa’s Nariyar village were working in the capital for the last decade. They were able to make Rs 15,000 to Rs 18,000 every month, says Kasim. Their family members are on their way to receive the bodies for last rites.
According to a staff member at the mortuary of Lady Hardinge Medical College, 9 bodies have been identified so far. While family members of 5 victims have come to claim the bodies, four bodies are yet to be claimed.
Day 2: Police Opens Entrance Leading to the Factory
A day after the fire accident in Anaj Mandi, on 9 December 2019, the Delhi Police opened the entrance leading to the factory in Delhi’s Sadar Bazar.
The narrow lane which had been cordoned off hours after the fire incident was reported was still under the vigil of Delhi Police with the shutters of the factory still down. Black soot could be seen on the top floor of the five-storey building where 43 labourers died due to suffocation after a short circuit led to a massive fire.
Relatives, Neighbours Queue Up at LNJP Mortuary
On the second day, relatives and neighbours of those who lost their family members in Sunday’s deadly fire were seen waiting outside the LNJP Mortuary as the police began handing over the bodies to the respective families.
Eighteen-year-old Mohd Tauqeer, a resident of Katai viilage in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district, was working at Anaj Mandi since last year. His uncle, Firoz, came to know about the incident after he heard about the fire tragedy in news bulletins on TV. Tauqeer would earn Rs 8,000 per month for helping out with the work of printing at the complex. Tauqeer is survived by his father and four brothers.
Mohd Chunnu, a resident of Bhalani village in Bihar’s madhubani district, had rushed to the spot after he got the news that the place where his younger brother, Mukim used to work was on fire. While Mukim is now recovering from his burn injuries at Irwin Hospital, Chunnu is saddened by the fact that he lost his neighbour from the same village, Zia-ul-Rehman.
Zia-ul-Rehman, 32, was also working in the same factory and would help with stitching which would fetch him Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 every month. Both Mukim and Zia-Ul-Rehman had started working around 6-7 months ago. Zia-ul-Rehman is survived by two daughters and a son.
Meanwhile, the two accused, Rihan who is the owner of the building and his manager, Furqan were presented at the Tis Hazari court on 9 December 2019.
Though the lawyer representing the accused claimed that this is more a case of media trial as the persons arrested had no direct link in the employment of workers at the factory and had only rented out the property, the metropolitan magistrate, Manoj Kumar, granted 14 days of custody for both to the Delhi Police.
(This story has been updated to include version of more victims and their family members.)
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