Update On The Fire In Petrol Pump Basti, D-6, Vasant Kunj Delhi: Current Situation And Information Regarding Help From Civil Society And Concerned Citizens
SOME FACTS ABOUT THE INCIDENT
· The fire started at around 7.30 in the morning and only stopped at around 11.30, after the whole basti leaving 3-4 houses had been destroyed.
· People started calling 100/102 for fire department and police assistance within moments of the fire starting but the response was worse than lukewarm. One woman was allegedly told by a police official/fire department people “jab bees jhuggiyon mein aag phael jaye to phone karna”(call when the fire has spread to atleast twenty chuggis).
· The fire department’s PR team is constantly claiming more than twenty seven fire tenders were dispatched to the spot. This is a bare faced lie and a damage control strategy. At the maximum ten fire trucks had reached the spot by the time the fire went out because there was nothing left to burn, not because it had been controlled. Of the trucks that reached the spot, far too late in the day, only TWO were used to try and douse the fire. Furthermore, despite early warning of cylinders constantly bursting in a congested area, the fire officials came without sufficient protective gear, were then wary of going near the fire and these two trucks were operated by the residents, which led to further injuries among men. The other fire trucks that did reach the spot were too late and were NOT used at all. The mainstream media despite clarifications is still spreading the misinformation put out by the fire department.
· PCR vans, which could have been of help in moving people and minimizing damage to people and property all showed up only after the fire tenders and again too late for crisis intervention.
· Even the police officials that reached the spot were merely present and not taking any action. Only when we rushed an injured man to the police to be taken to the hospital, since no ambulance had arrived till then, did the police officials that were present start calling for PCR vans to be sent.
· At this point, we can only confirm the death of two children for sure. More casualties are still a possibility.
· Enough cranes and other such equipment were not provided post the incident to clean up the rubble. Most of this was also done by the residents, by hand, without any protective gear. Though it must be said at this point(by around 3pm) some fire officials (NOT a sufficient number) did aid them in the cleaning up process.
· There are religious elements that reached the spot and have been capitalizing on the situation.
· Currently, there are three relief counters operating- one of the district committee of the Disaster Management Authority, one by an NGO that has been working with children of this basti for some time and one of two NGOs that work on disaster management
· The government has assured cooked food at all meal-times and drinking water till tomorrow 27/4/2014 but have no long term plan beyond that as of now, but people are continuing to put pressure on relevant authorities. Between 200-300 tents have reached the spot. Out of these only 20-30 have been put up till late last night. We have been assured by tonight all of them will be up and the government will supply more till all the people have some temporary shelter. It should be noted that this is temporary relief, there is still no strategy on long term rehabilitation of the affected.
· National Commission for Women will start offering some services from today.
· There has till now been no guarantee or even verbal assurance of any monetary compensation to help people deal with the damage. People must raise their voice to demand for the same.
· This is the fourth time such an incident is happening in this place. Fire breaking out has become endemic to this basti.
HOW/WHAT PEOPLE CAN CONTRIBUTE
A lot of people have come out in support, but we definitely need more. As of this morning, the following are a few ways in which people can channelize the help they have been offering. We will update in the coming days if need be.
· FOOD- Currently, at least till tomorrow, to show up with prepared food would be wastage of resources. Beyond that, DRY ration like dal, rice, flour, grams, other grains in bulk would be of use. But again, if these are merely collected and dropped off only day after would be better because of the lack of a safe storage place plus since the disaster management authority is proving food for today.
· WATER- Same as food. The government has assured an uninterrupted supply till tomorrow. If they do not figure a long term plan we might need to order tankers daily. Enough people have come forward with the offer of financial assistance. Please keep this money ready but hang on to it till we know what to spend it on.
· CLOTHES- Used\new clothing is required in large numbers. The disaster management authority has requested that they be separated according to “male”\”female” and child\adult, but this is really not a priority and can be done on the spot.
· MOSQUITO NETS- A minimum of 1500 mosquito nets are required. It would be appreciated if these are donated in kind instead of offering cash. They are available in many markets across town.
· HOUSEHOLD ITEMS- Really, anything OF USE that you can part with which may be helpful in setting up a house from scratch- mattresses, bed-sheets, utensils, buckets, the like would be of major assistance.
· VOLUNTEERS- More than one space has been identified for creating a space/place for children when their families go to work. Child rights NGOs have made assurances but still we would require volunteers to just be around and provide whatever assistance the children might need or ask for. This would be during the day but for a relatively longer period of time, till houses have been rebuilt.
· MONEY- We are trying to find out organizations that may have the infrastructure to accept and disburse cash. As individuals we are wary of taking direct cash contributions. But money would be of use in arranging building materials for the colony to be rebuilt. One jhuggi takes around 15-16 aluminum\metal sheets to get the basic structure together, one sheet is for RS. 500. Other materials like bamboo or poles of any material etc. would be required. Approximately 600 or more jhuggis need to be rebuilt. This is just to give an initial idea of how much money might be needed to raise in the coming days. But again, at this point please collect cash as individuals and hang on to it till a due process for equal distribution can be figured out. Same for monetary donations for other purposes.
· HEALTH SERVICES: Needless to say PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH interventions are crucial at this juncture. Any processionals or organizations that can cater to this need are welcome aytime.
· CIVIL SOCIETY INTERVENTIONS- The apathy and incompetence of the relevant authorities has not only precipitated this situation, but has also caused much disillusionment amongst the affected. Fact finding initiatives and pressure groups visiting the location could have some mitigating effect on the situation.
HOW TO GET YOUR DONATIONS ACROSS
The relief services being offered till now have provisionally even if predictably and ironically been christened “Jai Hind Camp”. This is at- Petrol Pump Basti, D-6, Opposite Kaveri Apartments, Vasant Kunj, Near Vasant Square Mall, Delhi. If you can physically come and drop off items at the Disaster Management Authority stall, it would be rather convenient. People are constantly monitoring what they are doing so under pressure they are functioning a little competently. It is a possibility to pick things up from various parts of Delhi, but if people with the time and resources can volunteer to do collection drives within their context(institutions\colonies\friends), it would save time for the people on the ground.
WHAT NOT TO DO
While we understand that the different sociological aspects of the situation must be analysed, we humbly request you not to do the following.
· PLEASE DISCOURAGE ANY COMMUNITY PROFILING\STERETYPING. The authorities, upper middle class neighbors and media are doing this despite constant protest.
· Please do not contact us for “auxiliary community studies” or misery-economy guided tours of the remnants of the basti. People obviously have the liberty to do these things themselves, but this is not a platform that is offering to do this at any point.
PLEASE SPREAD THIS INFORMATION FAR AND WIDE. And feel free to contact any of the following numbers\emails at any time.
Harsuchetun (9560681169) firstname.lastname@example.org
Siddharth (98991237894) email@example.com