Plans not approved – Factory raised beyond prescribed 38ft
Ruchika M Khanna, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, April 23. Tragedy was waiting to happen at Shital Fibres in Jalandhar. The blanket-manufacturing unit — which collapsed like a pack of cards on the night of April 15 snuffing out lives of 23 workers and leaving many others injured, some even permanently disabled — had come up in gross violation of building norms and labour laws.
It has now come to light that against a sanctioned height of 38 feet, the building had been raised to approximately 42 feet, with the third floor having just a tin shed for a roof. The building plan was never approved nor did the owner ever submit the mandatory structural design plan.
Giving a complete go-by to norms for a zoning plan, the built-up area of the factory was 100 per cent of the size of the industrial plot.
The factory owner did not obtain a “building stability certificate” and no safety audit of the premises was carried out. These are some of the shocking findings of the departmental probe initiated by the Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) and the Labour Department after the accident. The two departments will submit their report to the probe panel headed by Lt Gen (retd) BS Dhaliwal, technical adviser to the Chief Minister.
Interestingly, the departmental inquiry also reveals that the industrial plot was originally allotted to one Gursharan Singh in 1992, but was later bought by Shital Vij to run his blanket unit.
The records reveal the transfer of the plot, measuring 2,500 square yards, was affected in 2007.
Though the zoning rules clearly specify that the factory construction could have been done only on 22, 500 square meters, the survivors say the factory had a 100 per cent built-up area. Many survivors have claimed that the factory had four storeys.
However, the officials say they have found evidence of three storeys, with the ground floor and first floor having a lintered roof. The third storey just had a tin-shed roof.
Official sources said it was still unclear if the machines placed on the first floor of the factory caused vibrations while running. In case the machines were too heavy and ran on power, it would again be a violation of rules, which do not permit placing of heavy machinery and machinery running on power on the first floor of an industrial unit.