Ludhiana factory door locked, 4 choke to death

Owner arrested, practice rampant in industrial city

Nikhil Bhardwaj

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 10

Four workers were asphyxiated after a fire broke out in a locked hosiery unit in Kalyan Nagar area of Daresi in the wee hours today.  The workers could not escape as the gates were locked by the owner, apparently to prevent theft.

The practice of locking up workers in unsafe units is nothing new in Ludhiana. Workers are often forced to work night shifts in locked units to prevent them from taking away goods. Around 70 per cent of these units lack fire safety arrangements. 

The deceased have been identified as contractor Dhananjay Pandey (28) from Uttar Pradesh, pressman Satya Parkash (28) from Bihar and migrant labourers Rabhan (19) and Mohd Azad (20).

The factory, Kalra Knitwears, was built under the mixed land use scheme over a 50 square yard area in a narrow bylane housing several units. Police Commissioner Dr Sukhchain Singh Gill, after visiting the scene, ordered an FIR under Section 304 (culpable homicide) of the IPC against factory owner Sumit Kalra, a resident of Haibowal, who has been arrested. 

The incident occurred around 3.25 am when the  workers, working on the second floor, noticed smoke from the ground floor. The fire soon engulfed the ground floor, forcing them to flee to the third floor.  They were, however, trapped as the rooftop gate was locked, a worker claimed.

They then rang up the owner, who arrived at the scene and opened the main gate. However, fire hampered their rescue. It took the fire brigade over an hour to douse the blaze.

“We heard cries for help and broke open the shutter of the first floor balcony to gain entry. On reaching the third floor, we found the bodies of four workers,” said sub-fire officer Maninder Singh.

He said fire safety arrangements were lacking and the owner had not obtained the no-objection certificate from the fire department. On April 26, 2017, three members of a family were asphyxiated after a fire broke out at a cotton spinning mill, Parasnath Wools, in Industrial Area.

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