A fire broke out at about 1 am on 11 October 2020 at Dhobighat Jhuggi Basti situated in Lucknow’s Ashbagh. Many jhuggis were caught in the flames, although no lives were lost. Four goats were charred to death in the fire. The basti is mostly populated by the poorest sections of society, including a large number of daily wage earners, artisans and women working as domestic help.
On 14 October a 5-member CPIML fact-finding team visited the spot. The team comprised District Secretary Ramesh Singh Sengar, Chandrabhan Gupta, Atul Upadhyay, Shivam Safir and Ayush Shrivastava. The team members met the people of the basti and assured them that they would work for getting them help from the administration and ensure their rehabilitation.
According to the people present at the spot, chaos erupted in the area at around 1 am on 11 October when some gas cylinders allegedly exploded. It is said that about 10 to 15 cylinders allegedly exploded in the basti. By the time people woke up, the fire had spread to a large area. People just managed to save their lives and the lives of their children; but about 5 dozen homes were charred to ashes.
Mohd Qamar present at the spot said that his daughter’s wedding had been fixed for 30 October. The sewing machine he had purchased as a gift for his daughter was burnt to ashes in the fire, as also all the other things he had stored as preparation for the wedding, as well as cash. Another resident, Najma showed the team the burnt remains of her Battery rickshaw and said that this was the sole means of sustenance for the family; now that this rickshaw is burnt, we do not know how we are going to manage. Chand Sah told the team that his Rs 10000 in cash was burnt to ashes. Rita said that the roof that provided shelter to her family is gone, and they are at a loss to know where they could live now.
Many families have similarly suffered heavy losses, and a livelihood crisis is also hanging over their heads. So far the administration and government have not rendered any help to them. Some mohallas are arranging shelter and food for them, but this is far from enough. The residents of the jhuggis say that the real issue is that they need to get back the homes which had provided them shelter. They want the government to re-build their jhuggis for them.
After finding out the facts of the incident, the CPIML team feels the need for the following:
- The government should give a compensation of Rs 50,000 to each victim family as immediate relief.
- Adequate rations should be arranged for their immediate sustenance.
- Pucca houses should be built at the same spot for the victim families.
- Preventative disinfectants should be sprayed immediately in the area so that pandemic/diseases and mosquito-borne illnesses can be prevented.