Delhi fire: Building owner arrested; agonising wait for kin as 19 of 27 bodies yet to be identified

NEW DELHI, May 15:  The owner of the building in Delhi’s Mundka where a massive fire claimed the lives of at least 27 people was arrested on Sunday, even as there was no end to wait for the kin of the deceased with 19 bodies yet to be identified.

According to the police, blood samples from over 20 family members of the deceased have been collected so far for carrying out the procedure of DNA profiling for identification purpose.

These also include charred bodies of those eight deceased, who have been identified, to be completely sure of their identity, officials said, adding that the process would be completed in the next 5-10 days.

Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has approved a magisterial inquiry into Friday’s fire and directed the district magistrate (west) to probe lapses on part of the departments concerned and recommend action against the erring officials by fixing their responsibilities.

An official said that the probe will be completed within six weeks.

Two days after the fire in which 27 people were killed and 17 were injured, the Delhi Police arrested Manish Lakra, the owner of the building.

Sameer Sharma, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Outer), said that 35-year-old Lakra was planning to go Haridwar.

“We laid a trap and nabbed him from Ghevra Mod (in Delhi) after conducting multiple raids in Delhi and Haryana,” Sharma said.

Lakra used to live on the fourth floor of the commercial building, and he managed to escape to the adjacent building along with his family members when the fire broke out, the police said.

The building belonged to Lakra’s father who died in 2015, bequeathing it to him.

A CCTV camera and router manufacturing and assembling company, in whose office the fire is suspected to have started, had been on the premises since 2017. Its owners — brothers Harish and Vijay Goel — have already been arrested.

A motivational programme was underway on the second floor of the building when the fire broke out. A father-son duo from Australia was conducting the session, the police said.

The programme was organised by the company and all its employees were present.

Many people were trapped inside the building and could not come out as there was a lot of smoke and the building had a single entry and exit point, according to the police.

The DCP said police action would be taken against those government or municipal officials for their negligence since the building did not have fire safety certificate and other necessary permission.

Meanwhile, family members of victims continued to search for their loved ones on Sunday as 19 bodies are yet to be identified. Some family members identified bodies through their belongings.

Santosh Kumar (41) identified the body of his wife Ranju Devi (34) through her turtle-shaped ring and two bangles as those were the only items remained intact.

“I was at work when I got the news of fire at her company. I rushed there and waited for three hours but could not find her. Later, I rushed to Sanjay Gandhi hospital and identified her (Ranju Devi) through her turtle shaped ring and two bangles — one was of red colour and the another was of white.

“I took her body from the hospital at 4.30 pm and did all the rituals yesterday,” Santosh told PTI, his eyes brimming with tears.

Vishwajeet Kumar (41), husband of deceased Yashoda Devi (35), said that she started working to help him repay his debts after their daughter”s wedding.

“On Saturday, Yashoda”s body was identified and handed over to us around 5 pm. My elder daughter got married in 2018 but after that we came under debt. My wife started working in the company as a printer to help me and the family. I have lost everything and dont know what to do,” Vishwajeet said with a throat choked with emotions.

He said that they belonged to Nalanda district in Bihar. Yashoda”s funeral was conducted Saturday evening.

Rajesh Kumar, whose sisters are missing, said that he couldn”t identify them as the bodies were charred beyond recognition. He said they are still awaiting a response from the hospital on DNA testing.

“I have three sisters and all of them are missing. We requested the hospital to conduct a DNA test, and still waiting for a response from them. My sisters worked at the camera packaging department. It was 4:30pm when I received a call from our father, informing me about the fire incident in Mundka,”  a grieving Rajesh said.

DCP Sharma said, “Though eight charred bodies have been identified, we have collected DNA samples from their family members also to ensure that the identity of these bodies are correct. So far, we have collected samples from over 20 people for the process of DNA profiling which will be carried out by forensic experts.”

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Sunday sent a notice to the Delhi government in connection with the Munda fire tragedy and observed that the incident established that the city authorities have “learnt little” from similar incidents in the past.

The commission has asked the chief secretary of the Delhi government to submit a report within two weeks detailing the action taken against the responsible authorities or officers, fixing the culpability and status of disbursement of the relief or rehabilitation granted by the government, if any.

Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) held the BJP responsible for the death of 27 people in Mundka, alleging that the “illegal industrial activities” were going on in the building as its owner Manish Lakra enjoyed protection from the saffron party leaders.

Addressing a press conference here, senior AAP leader Durgesh Pathak also showed some pictures in which Lakra was seen with some BJP leaders, including a former mayor of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation.

“Lakra is a BJP man. That’s why MCD gave him protection and illegal industrial activities continued in the building,” Pathak charged, adding, “BJP and its leaders are responsible for the death of 27 people in the tragic incident of fire in the building. They were all hand in glove”.  (PTI)