On December 8, Sunday morning national capital of India, New Delhi’s Anaj Mandi, witnessed the tragedy of 43 labourers charred into death when a five storey building housing a dozen manufacturing units engulfed in fire. Five of the dead were minors. They were poor migrant workers who had come to Delhi in search of livelihoods. They lived and slept in the cramped premises after rigorous work and then choked to death. Unregulated manufacturing units have mushroomed not only in Delhi but in several parts of India.
On February 12 this year 17 people including a child were burnt alive in Arpit Palace Hotel in Delhi.
In another major fire on December 17, 2018, in a workers hospital owned by the government in Mumbai 6 people died and 129 were injured.
In December 2018, 18 miners were trapped in a mine in the eastern Indian state, Meghalaya, for several days and ultimately they could not be rescued. The mine was closed.
Every time such fires take place and precious lives are lost, administrators and authorities begin blame game about non compliance of rules, safety norms and violations of regulations. Routine enquiries will be ordered. And it is business as usual till the next tragedy strikes.
On December 4 every year India remembers the worst industrial tragedy that took place 35 years ago when more than 3000 lives were lost in 24 hours owing to a gas leak from Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal. Thousands are suffering even now. No one was punished for Bhopal gas leak.
The present situation is bound to worsen further with the implementation of the new Modi government law on Health and Safety which was enacted a month ago. The new labour code on Health and Safety has no stringent provisions against employers in the realm of fire hazards, adherence to safety norms.
New Trade Union Initiative deplores the blatant disregard of the authorities for health and safety standards. We demand safe working conditions for workers. No Anaj Mandi again.
Trade unions in India would be organizing a nation wide strike on January 8, 2020 demanding justice for workers and labour rights.