Alipur fire: Kin of the dead break down on discovering bodies

- February 17, 2024
| By : Muhammad Tahir |

Residents say repeated complaints against illegally-run factories fell on deaf ears as they come to terms with the Alipur fire tragedy that left 11 people dead

Nasha mukti Kendra, just infront of paint factory

At around 6 pm in the mortuary of Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital in Jahangirpuri, Asaram and his relatives were searching for the body of his cousin, Brijkishor, which couldn’t be found even 24 hours after the massive fire in Alipur.

The 19-year-old Brijkishor was working in the paint factory where a fire erupted on February 15 evening leaving 11 people dead. The fire was extinguished after four hours at around 9 pm but it left many families shattered and inflicted a loss of lakhs of rupees. As many as 10 nearby properties, including a Nasha Mukti Kendra, were also damaged.

“We have been trying to find him since yesterday but couldn’t. His phone is switched off too. We have searched in thana too,” Asaram told Patriot.

Brijkishor, a resident of UP’s Gonda district, lived with cousin Asaram in a rented home in Alipur.

Actual site of the factory, completely collapsed

“He was working in the factory for the last 3-4 years. He was ill for two days due to the effects of a hard chemical so I stopped him from going to work but he went as usual,” Asaram stated further in grief.

Finally, the police officer called Asaram and relatives for the identification of a body and they confirmed that the burnt body belonged to Brijkishor.

“His body was totally black, over 60% damaged. We identified him through his phone and bracelet. He was a very simple boy,” said the owner of the room where he stayed.

The sole breadwinner of his house, Brijkishor had three brothers and two sisters who stay in his hometown where his body will be taken.

“His salary was only Rs 8,000. He worked overtime and sent money to his home every month. He would say, ‘I will need advance money for marriage, so I will not take leave, otherwise the owner of the factory will not give advance’,” said the owner of the house.

Brijkishor, who did not go home for two years, was planning to go home at the start of next month for the wedding of a sibling.

“His plan was to go home on March 1, because of his elder brother’s marriage. He had many plans for the wedding and was excited,” Asaram recalled in agony.

At least 11 charred bodies were found following the massive fire and they were rushed to the hospital mortuary. The fire also destroyed some bikes, shops, and a resident’s household items including refrigerator, washing machine and beds.

Other families also reached the mortuary to identify their loved ones who were lost in the mayhem.

Arti Devi was unconscious at the mortuary while two family members were trying to console her. However, she would break down from time to time.

Arti, lost conscious, at mortuary.

She came to Delhi around six months ago from Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh along with her husband Pankaj Kumar, 40. They had hopes of a good future.

But their hopes were shattered suddenly due to the incident on 15th February.

Pankaj Kumar, who used to work on almirah racks and lived on rent with wife, was one of the 11 who died in the incident.

He had gone to the paint factory with two other employees for work but did not return alive.

“We did not inform Arti (wife) about his death but when we couldn’t identify his body, she needed to be called. The body was burnt 80%. We identified the body from the bike key lying in his trousers,” Pankaj’s brother-in-law, Suvdesh told Patriot.

He was completing formalities, along with others, to hand over the dead body to the police officers.

“Their family, children and parents are in the village. They were planning to return to the village soon, but now his body is going to return. They wanted to get their children admitted to a Delhi school in the next session,” he said further.

The deadly fire also left Duggu lonely. His father had already separated and now his mother died in the fire incident.

A 6th standard student, he was living with Meera, his mother, on rent in Alipur.

He was searching for Meera in the mortuary with his maternal grandmother, maternal aunt and others.

Duggu and other relatives would break down every time they’d see her picture on phone.

“Mom came back for lunch. She wore a yellow suit and red jacket,” he recalled.

The officer asked them for ID and took them to the mortuary, where they identified the deceased.

Meera also worked in the paint factory.

Ram Sewak Singh, another deceased, was 45 and had gone to the paint factory on behalf of his employer Spencer Storage System, with two others for rack work.

His family, including 15-year-old son Krishna, were waiting for his body. Originally from Deoria district of UP, he lived in Sonia Vihar with wife, a son and a daughter.

“He was the sole breadwinner of the family. He didn’t work there but went for his company assignment that day. One of his colleagues went out to purchase something when the incident happened, so was saved. He is in shock and unable to speak,” said Singh’s brother-in-law.

“My father left at around eight in the morning. He wanted to give me good education and would talk about medical and research,” said Krishna, a 10th standard student in Government Senior Secondary School, who sat silently outside the mortuary.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal visited the Alipur fire tragedy site after the incident and announced compensation of Rs 10 lakh each to the families of the deceased, Rs 2 lakh each to people with major injuries and Rs 20,000 each to the people with minor injuries.

H also admitted that there is an allegation against the fire brigade for turning up late.

“I will order an investigation into this, and whoever is found guilty will not be spared. Action will be taken soon,” he commented.

Kejriwal also said that action will be taken against the factory owner for running the factory in a residential area.

According to the Delhi Fire Service (DFS), they received a call at around 5.26 pm and 22 fire tenders were rushed to the spot.

Even though Kejriwal has promised action against the factory owner, locals in the area told Patriot that no action was taken despite complaints.

When Patriot visited the site, a huge number of people gathered at the site. The National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and the fire brigade team were also present at the site. JCB was also working to clear the damage site.

Locals were very angry and complained that the factory was running under a tin shed and was locked. The workers had to badly beat at the gate but couldn’t escape.

The fire in chemical drums rose to 4-5 feet. There are only exit gates, they were trapped inside badly died. The men working outside the gates too couldn’t escape.

The chemical flowed into the drain, causing fire to spread to nearby houses.

The house of Kamla, which was on the opposite side and just 20 metres away, was damaged along with the belongings. Thankfully, most of the family members were not present.

“We have complained many times but the factories are running here through bribe,” said Kamla’s son, Narendra.

He pointed at other factories functioning near his home.

“Half of our house has collapsed, and we need to rebuild it again. A brother’s grocery shop and a clothes shop have burnt,” he said further.

“Apart from this, household belongings like refrigerator, bike, and bed among other items were also destroyed. We lost around Rs 10 lakh.”

Usha Devi’s home was also damaged. She, along with four family members, have been living here for around a decade.

A lady, who was very angry said that this isn’t the first time it is happening. It has happened repeatedly but there has been no action. “We escape from here to save ourselves,” she added.

The DCP did not respond to repeated calls from Patriot.

According to a report, Delhi Police has registered a case of culpable homicide against the owner of the paint factory.

ASI Ved Prakash, who was completing  formalities in the mortuary, told Patriot that eight of the 11 bodies have been identified.