Hyderabad fire tragedy: Charred bodies, lost jobs and uncertain future of migrant workers

Hyderabad: Jitender sat on his haunches, striking an empty-eyed look. Surrounded by a group of over 20 people, he narrated impassively, the demise of his first cousin Chintu, who lost his life as a result of a fire accident at a godown in the Bhoiguda area of the city.

47-year-old Chintu and his 20 something son Damodar were among the casualties in a fire mishap that took place in the early hours of Wednesday at a godown in Bhoiguda, Secunderabad. Aside from the 11 people who passed away, the lone survivor of the mishap, 22-year-old Prem, and the countless family members of the deceased are also victims of an unspeakable tragedy.

Hum kaam ke vaaste aaye the Hyderabad ko. 4-5 saal se yahin hain (We came to Hyderabad for work. We have been working here for four to five years),” remarks Jitender, from Katihar, Bihar while speaking to Siasat.com. Despite the lack of emotion, Jitender offered the briefest of pauses before rotely answering the factual questions asked of him.

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Gajender, Jitender’s friend and co-worker explains that he along with countless others reside in Chandrayangutta and commute 34 kilometres each day to and from Bhoiguda. They work as scrap collectors; going from one area to the next collecting glass, wood, and other materials before handing it over to the godown.

Unlike Gajender and the rest, the deceased men were staying in the godown. After a day’s work, the migrant workers would rest for the night in the first floor of the godown. However, unexpectedly a fire broke out which claimed the lives of 11 of the men residing there.

As of the moment, there is no clarity on what caused the fire. An official from the Fire Control Room said that while the matter is still being looked into, the preliminary investigation hints at an electric short circuit causing the mishap.

The government’s response:

A case has been filed against Sampath, the owner of the godown under section 304A (causing death by negligence) and 337 (Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) under the Indian Penal Code.

As of now Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have announced Rs 5 lakh and Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia respectively to the families of the deceased. The state home minister Mahmood Ali has assured that the bodies of the deceased would be transported back to their hometown.

However, this assurance offers no respite for the surviving victims. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has demolished the godown which was the source of employment for countless migrant workers.

When asked what they would do next, Jitender, with mild irritation remarks, “Abhi kya pata. Dekhna padega.” (Now what do we know? We will see.)

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