Cameraperson: Athar Rather
Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam
Senior Editor: Shelly Walia
Bhagya Vihar has been overcome with grief since the tragic fire at the CCTV camera manufacturing company in Mundka on 13 May, in which several women from the locality lost their lives. A total of 27 people had died in the fire.
The lanes and bylanes of the colony echo with grief-stricken cries of kin who have lost a family member – most of the victims were women. Every second family has lost a member; some have lost a primary breadwinner while children have lost their mothers.
Inside 33-year-old Ranju Devi’s two-room house, her husband and three children continue to grieve her untimely death. Her husband Santosh told The Quint, “We were able to recognise the body because it was burnt a little less. She was wearing two bangles; one white, one red. She had nail polish on. We also recognised a ring and a toe ring.”
Only a few metres away, 35-year-old Jasoda Devi’s family says that they do not know what they will do now that Jasoda Devi is not among them. Her daughter, Rinki, recalls the day of the fire: “Someone in the neighborhood told me that there had been a fire in my mother’s factory. I called her twice but she did not pick up. Then, I went to the location. I saw many others come out of the building but did not see my mother.”
Families Left Without Mothers, Breadwinners
Nineteen-year-old Nisha took up the job in order to sustain her family of nine. Her father Guddu Prasad said, “Nisha used to take care of the entire house. I do not have a steady source of income. That is why Nisha took up the job.”
Nisha leaves behind six sisters, one brother, and her parents. Her youngest sibling is two months old.
"She was the only earning member. She would also take care of all her siblings. I have a daughter who has disabilities. Nisha would feed her, bathe her, and take care of her. We do not know how we will manage without her."Nisha Kumari’s father
Similarly, Santosh, who lost his wife, says that he does not know how to bring up his children all by himself. “I have three children, I do not know what to do now. I have relatives who keep visiting but nobody can take a mother’s place,” he said.
Jasoda Devi is survived by three children. Her daughter, Rinki, said, "My mother used to take care of us and the house. My father does not stay here. He works as a labourer in Haryana."
Lockdown Pushed Them To Take Up the Jobs
Most of these families were fraught with financial troubles during the lockdown and that is when some of them took up the job.
Thirty-six-year-old Musrat’s brother, Md Imtiaz, said, “During the lockdown, her husband, who works as a painter, was struggling to get work. At the same time, her children were growing up. That is why she joined the company.”
A similar situation had led Jasoda Devi to take up the job. Her daughter said,
"When I got married, we were in a lot of debt. My father could not handle it all by himself. That is why she had to take up the job."Rinki Devi
However, despite working eight hours a day and sometimes putting in longer work hours, most of the women were paid a meagre Rs 6,500. The older employees were getting around Rs 7,500.
Santosh said that his wife had taken up the job because it promised a better pay.
He said, "Before that, she used to work in a godown nearby. She used to earn Rs 3,000 - Rs. 4,000. She took up the job for a little more money. They were paying her Rs 6,500. What else can I say? This is what has happened to us."