NEW DELHI: Those who are not residents of Delhi are astonished when they walk down the narrow streets of the national capitals congested areas and suddenly encounter a small-scale industry. People usually visualise a factory as a big building but the reality is different in Delhi. The city houses thousands of small factories, which are said to be ticking fire bombs operating under the nose of the civic authorities.
In Anaj Mandi, which houses around 1000 illegal factories, the workers are left with no choice but to work in these factories
situated in perilously close buildings which can be quickly engulfed in an accidental fire.
"Whom should we blame, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led Delhi government, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled Municipal Corporation, Delhi Police, Delhi Fire Service (DFS) or the corrupt system which runs under their nose," said residents of Anaj Mandi area.
In 2019, the tragic death of 43 people in a fire at Filmistan theatre at Anaj Mandi due to a short circuit is a grim reminder that civic agencies did not learn lessons from past tragedies as they wait for another incident to happen and then the time tested game of "passing the buck" begins. And this is not a one-off incident as many areas where illegal factories are operating in residential areas are ticking time bombs.
According to the Federation of Sadar Bazar Trade associations, there are over 40,000 shops and over 1000 factories in the
"Anaj Mandi has been a business hub since the Mughal era but if it could have been noticed by the authorities there would be no open wires and narrow alleys, making this area a ticking bomb. It could have been tackled long ago. Neither the MLA or MP here have ever thought of doing so," claimed the association.
The locals claimed that they have given numerous complaints regarding illegal units operating in the area to the civic agencies but till date nothing has happened.
"Whenever a tragic incident occurs in Anaj Mandi, the civic and other agencies officials are always quick to put the onus on the owners of the building and claim that commercial activity is going on "illegally" but why no action," said Ram Prakash, a resident of Anaj Mandi area, who also runs a garment shop there.
However, a senior MCD official said that from time to time they seal illegal factories and they have shut down and sealed more than 1300 factories after surveying over 4,500 properties.
"Notices are also being served and soon all these industries being operated from industrial areas will be sealed," he added.
"I work and earn Rs 7,000 per month. We have a family to run, children's studies and house rent to pay so why would I not work, even knowing that there is a risk to my life, After any incident here, leaders come and shed crocodile tears, announce compensation but nothing happens on the ground," said Farhan, who works in a denim factory in the area.
A visit to Anaj Mandi reveals the narrow and congested lanes with wires and cables dangling dangerously. The roads are so narrow that a fire tender cannot enter in case of any mishap.
None of the factories operating there have any emergency exit,
neither do they have any safety equipment to douse a fire.
The Delhi Fire Services gives Sections 25, 27, & 44 of the DFS Act 2010 a go to such buildings which stipulate a certain height and occupancy level needed for fire safety and fire prevention measures.
But no action has been taken by the DFS. As per sources, most of the buildings in the area are violating these norms and the owners of such buildings are not even aware of it.
It is also not known by whose authority the many illegal factories operating here have managed to instal multiple electricity meters.
Seeing the previous incidents, it is clear that precious lives could have been saved if these departments had been diligent.
MPD-2021 mandates MCD to prepare the redevelopment plan of the Special Area. As per sources, the redevelopment plan was prepared by North DMC and cleared by the Technical Committee of the DDA. The finalized plan was approved by the Corporation in March 2017.
It was sent to the Urban Development Department of the Delhi government for notification in the official Gazette in April 2017. But despite providing all the clarifications sought from time to time it is still pending notification.
What are these departments waiting for?