Describing the Anaj Mandi fire incident as a "catastrophe" that was waiting to happen, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday issued notices to the Delhi government, the city's police chief and the North Delhi civic body and sought a detailed report in six weeks. The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports that at least 43 people were killed in the Anaj Mandi area in central Delhi early Sunday morning when a blaze caused by a short-circuit turned a five-storey building into a "lethal gas chamber", the rights panel said.
About 100-150 people were sleeping in the building when the fire broke out and most of the victims choked to death.
The Commission has issued notices to the chief secretary of the Delhi government, the Delhi Police commissioner and the commissioner of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation. It has sought a report within six weeks along with action taken against the errant officials, and details of relief and rehabilitation provided to the next of kin of the deceased and the injured, it said in a statement.
A notice has also been issued to the Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs with the expectation that a "committee of experts" may be formed to look into the matters relating to the "violation of norms" by building owners, shopkeepers, individuals, firms, who are conducting commercial activities in residential areas by encroaching public roads in connivance with public officials of different agencies, the rights panel said.
"The committee must look into the Master Plan of Delhi and take all adequate and appropriate measures by examining all issues of illegal construction, misuse of rules or norms and use of factory area for residential purposes, thoroughly and submit its report with their suggestions to streamline all the congested areas within Delhi to make it more save and worth living for the citizens," the NHRC said.
The response is expected within six weeks, it said.
The Commission also observed that it seems the "authorities have not learnt any lessons from the tragic incidents occurred in the recent past and an incident like the Anaj Mandi fire catastrophe was waiting to happen".
Apparently, no one seems to bother about rules or norms, which are to be followed by building owners, authorities of the municipal corporations of Delhi, local administration, police and the fire safety authorities, the statement said.
"The painful incident could have been avoided and the precious human lives could be saved, had the norms been not violated by the authorities responsible to maintain fire safety of each of the buildings in congested places as well as the owner of the building, who had shown scant regard to the rule of law," the rights panel observed.
Loss of lives, at such magnitude, of the people from disadvantaged group also causes a serious threat to the safety and security of the life and livelihood of the daily wagers in the unorganised sectors since they do not have any secure place of living within the city, it added.
The NHRC also recalled its earlier interventions in fire incidents at Arpit Palace Hotel and an illegal factory in Karol Bagh.
The Commission said it had asked the authorities to streamline the process of fire auditing, which continued to fall on "deaf ears" as the authorities "failed to act promptly with some kind of alacrity, resulting this horrific and devastating incident causing loss of life of so many persons".
At least 43 people were killed when a massive fire ripped through a four-storey building housing illegal manufacturing units in north Delhi's congested Anaj Mandi area on Sunday morning, in the second deadliest blaze in the national capital.