Archives  >  2019  >  December  >  9th

Delhi, Up In Flames

1. What’s the story?

In one of the worst fires ever reported in the capital, more than 43 people were killed, and many others injured when a massive fire broke out in a building housing illegal manufacturing units in North Delhi. Even though preliminary investigations suggest that a short circuit might have been behind the deadly blaze, investigations are still on regarding the exact nature of the fire. The building owner and manager have been arrested by the police. 

Tell me more.

“According to fire officials, preliminary investigations suggest that a short circuit might have triggered early morning blaze. They further added that none of the units had a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the fire department and the congested area made rescue operations difficult. Firemen had to cut window grills to access the building. According to Delhi Fire Service Director Atul Garg, the building did not have a fire clearance and no fire safety equipment was found installed on the premises.

Fire officials said the congested area made it difficult for them to carry out rescue operations. Many of those killed and injured were fast asleep when the fire broke out. As the building lacked proper ventilation, most of the people died due to asphyxiation.”

To make things worse, most people working in these units were fast asleep when the fire broke out early on a wintry Sunday morning. Bystanders reported chaotic scenes at the site of the blaze, with the narrow lanes being clogged with fire engines, political convoys, ambulances, and curious bystanders.

Wails of inconsolable family members filled the air in the morgue at the LHMC on Sunday.  Wajid Ali, who hails from Samastipur, nearly fainted after emerging from the room.

Bihar native Wajid Ali sank down to the floor in front of the mortuary at a city hospital after seeing the body of his young cousin and learning that his two brothers are untraceable after the massive blaze in north Delhi’s Anaj Mandi area on Sunday that has killed at least 43.

Ali, in his 20s, said he works in a bag-making unit in the same area. He woke up to the sad news and rushed from one hospital to another looking for his family members, only to find his cousin’s body at the Lady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital (LHMC).”

In the midst of this tragedy, however, firefighter Rajesh Shukla emerged as a hero — saving 11 people despite injuries to his kneecap and lungs

“Rajesh Shukla was hailed as a hero on Sunday after the firefighter pulled 11 people out of a multi-storey building in north Delhi amid a blaze on Sunday. Racing past smoke-filled corridors, the Delhi Fire Service personnel said he entered the building at least 12 times before his breathing apparatus exhausted. During the operation, he suffered injuries to his knee-cap and had a severe headache owing to inhalation of smoke.

He is now recuperating at LNJP Hospital. Shukla told PTI that he has seen massive fires during his service but the Anaj Mandi incident was one of the deadliest. “I have handled close to 7,000 fire rescue calls and was a part of the rescue operation during the Hotel Arpit Palace Fire in Karol Bagh and the recent AIIMS hospital fire. This was one of the major fires in terms of the casualties,” he told PTI.” 
So, what now?

 As news of the disaster spread, union and state ministers rushed to the spot. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who later also visited the injured at the LNJP Hospital, announced an immediate probe into the incident, with a detailed report to be produced within seven days. He also announced an ex-gratia of INR 10 lakh for the kin of the people who were killed in the fire. 

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.

2. Where else should I be keeping my eyes on?

Maharashtra, that’s where.

“A Pune-based social enterprise, Gram Oorja, is creating solar micro-grids for impoverished communities, providing a model for sustainable rural electrification as well as empowering the community to manage the micro-grid and their daily energy needs.”

3. What more?

The Karnataka bypolls were held last Thursday, and results are set to be announced on Monday. Even though only 15 seats went to polls this time around, they might hold the four-month old Yediyurappa Government’s fate in their hands. (Quick recap: A bypoll is an election held to fill a vacancy arising during a government’s term of office.) 

“The fate of the four-month-old BS Yediyurappa led-BJP government in Karnataka will be determined on Monday when the results of the bypolls to 15 Assembly constituencies in the state is set to be announced.

The byelections held across nine districts, necessitated after 17 rebel MLAs from the Congress and JD(S) parties defected to the BJP, recorded 66.25 per cent voting, according to the Election Commission of India. Of the 15 constituencies where polling has been held, 12 were held by the Congress and three by the JD(S) after the 2018 elections.

Yediyurappa currently has the support of 106 MLAs in the Assembly, including one Independent, while the Opposition combine of the Congress and JD-S has 101. The BJP government will have to win a minimum of six out of the 15 seats, along with seven out of the 17 vacant seats of the Assembly, to keep its majority.

The Assembly has 224 seats, with 17 vacancies. Thirteen of the disqualified MLAs are fighting the byelections on BJP tickets from the same constituencies from where they had won in 2018 as candidates of the Congress/JD-S.”

4. Anything else?

The current UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, seems to be wooing his Indian votebank hard. Ahead of the crucial UK elections set to be held this Thursday, Johnson heaped praise on Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, signalling a favourable diplomatic relationship between the UK and India if Johnson’s current Tory administration comes back to power again

“In a bid to woo Indian voters ahead of Thursday’s general election, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Saturday visited a famous temple in London and vowed to join his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in building ‘New India’.

Johnson, accompanied by his girlfriend Carrie Symonds and UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel, visited one of the most famous temples Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, north-west London.

“I know Prime Minister Modi is building a new India. And, we in the UK government will support him fully in his endeavour,” PTI quoted Johnson as saying.

Sporting a tilak and garland, Johnson mentioned the role of Indian diaspora in past election wins for the Conservatives. “British Indians have played a vital role in helping the Conservatives win elections in the past. When I told Narendrabhai [Modi] this, he just laughed and said Indians are always on the winning side,” he said.

In an indirect reference to Labour’s perceived anti-India stance over the issue of Kashmir, he noted: “There can be no place for racism or anti-India sentiment of any kind in this country”.”

5. Is that all?

It’s been six months of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. For the past half year, these protests have reshaped Asian and world politics, and caused the Chinese juggernaut to come to a momentary halt. On Sunday, a massive rally marking this anniversary saw a sea of protestors “pour out on streets, calling for elections and inquiry into police tactics.”

“Hundreds of thousands of protesters have filled the streets of Hong Kong in a mass show of support for an anti-government movement that shows no signs of flagging as it enters a seventh month.

The march on Sunday was mostly peaceful, in a rare break from the escalating violent scenes of recent weeks.

Chanting “Reclaim Hong Kong, Revolution of our time!”, a sea of protesters formed a two-mile-long human snake winding for blocks on Hong Kong Island, from the Causeway Bay shopping district to the Central business zone.

It was the first time in nearly four months that the march organiser, Civil Human Rights Front, had been given police permission for a mass demonstration. The organiser of million-strong marches in June estimated that 800,000 people participated in Sunday’s march. Police said 183,000 turned up.”

6. Before you leave…

Read about how, in a bizarre commentary on the price of art and the increasingly gimmicky modern art industry, “…an artwork of an overripe banana duct-taped to a wall that sold for $120,000 (£91,000) has been eaten by a separate performance artist.”

“The artwork, titled Comedian, by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, was on display at the international gallery Perrotin at Art Basel in Miami.

Three buyers bought the limited-edition pieces of the banana art this week.
But performance artist David Datuna pulled it from the wall, peeled it and devoured it on Saturday.

“Art performance by me. I love Maurizio Cattelan artwork and I really love this installation. It’s very delicious,” Mr Datuna posted on Instagram. Despite the initial anger of a member of staff, the banana was swiftly replaced and no further action will be taken.”

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