The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the district magistrate, North Delhi, to ensure that compensation is paid within two weeks to the families of six people who died and 14 people who were injured in a factory fire in Narela earlier this month.
The NGT had taken up the matter after a report in The Indian Express dated November 1: ‘Delhi: 2 dead in factory fire in Delhi’s Narela’. The fire had broken out in a footwear factory in the Narela Industrial Area.
A report submitted by the district magistrate, North Delhi, to the NGT said that the number of deaths has gone up to six, and there were 14 injured. Of the six people who died in the fire, three workers died on the day of the fire, while the others succumbed to injuries in the hospital about a week later, according to the report. The youngest victim was about 17 years old, going by the report, and the workers were mostly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
An NGT order dated November 23 noted: “It is patent that the death of six workers took place in the course of hazardous activities of the PPs (project proponents) operating without requisite precautions… Learned counsel for the district magistrate has stated that there is a policy of making ex-gratia payment in such cases but the same has not been for want of bank details made even though the incident took place 22 days ago.”
The order added: “It is a matter of regret that the administration should take such a long time in collecting the bank details when all particulars of the victims are available and victims require immediate help in such a tragedy. The attitude of the administration shows lack of sensitivity in handling such a human tragedy by a welfare state. Let the district magistrate ensure all necessary payments to the victims within two weeks from today.”
The order also said that if there is a delay in payment of compensation by the owner of the premises, the state authorities must make the payment and recover it from the project proponent.
The order states: “…if within three months from the date of incident compensation is not paid to the victims, the state itself will be liable to pay compensation at the rate of Rs 20 lakhs in respect of each of the deceased victims and Rs 15 lakhs to persons who have burns in excess of 50%, Rs 10 lakhs for persons who have burns from 25 to 50% and Rs 5 lakhs for persons who have injuries between 5 to 25%. Victims who were treated as outpatients and who had minor degree of burns or other forms of simple injuries shall be paid Rs 2 lakhs.”
According to records of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, two units were functioning out of the plot, one of which had not been granted consent to operate “due to generation of hazardous waste from printing activities”. The units were engaged in manufacturing footwear, PVC granules and printing on footwear.
A report by the director, industrial safety and health, states that the unit did not have firefighting equipment as prescribed by the rules and an emergency exit had not been provided.
It added: “The factory was being run without a license, amounting to contravention of the provisions of Rule 3, 3-A & 11-A of the Delhi Factories Rules, 1950 read with section 6 & 7 of the Factories Act, 1948. Cause of the incident was that a fire occurred at the first floor of the building due to an electric short circuit followed by an explosion in solvent stored as raw material kept at the same floor in the drums. Precautions had not been taken for safety and health of the workers in contravention of provisions of Section 7A of the Factories Act, 1948.”
A report submitted by the police also states that the supervisor and the owner of the factory have been arrested.
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