Mumbai: Singed by Kalbadevi fire, state to clear area of gold, silver workshops

Officials feel that the manufacturing units in Kalbadevi, Chira Bazaar, Zaveri Bazaar, and other areas of C ward store a lot of inflammable material and, hence, are potential fire hazards

After the devastating fire at Kalbadevi on Saturday, the state is trying to finally get its act together. The government claims that it will soon get all the workshops that use gas cylinders, chemicals and other inflammable articles evacuated from Kalbadevi, Chira Bazaar, Zaveri Bazaar, and other areas of C ward. Prakash Mehta, who apart from being the housing minister of the state also holds the portfolio of labour minister, told mid-day, “This decision might hurt some traders, but we cannot take any more risks and workshops using chemical and gas will be moved out from the area.”

On Saturday, Gokul Niwas, the ground-plus-four-storey building in the area came crashing down after it caught fire, resulting in the death of two firemen. The government somehow has pinned the cause of the fire on various workshops that stored inflammable items like chemicals, acid and a lot of cloth. “It is high time that these workshops are moved out from here; we cannot risk the life of our officers. If those running these industries are human beings, then even our officers who died are also human beings and we cannot let this happen,” said Mehta.

There are some 90,000 labourers working only in the gold and silver jewellery manufacturing units in the whole of C ward. These are the workshops that use a lot of chemicals and acids, which not only leads to pollution on occasion, but is also a major fire hazard as these units store a lot of inflammable chemicals.

The units are located mostly in buildings which are commercial-cum-residential units. According to Mohit Kamboj, president of India Bullion and Jewellery Association Ltd., (IBJA), no one wants to stay or work in a environment that is not very habitable. “Everyone wants to move out of the pollution and other health hazards that are caused due to the chemicals used in these manufacturing units.

We have asked the government that for the jewellery manufacturing industry, we be given a separate place so that we can move our workshops there,” said Kamboj. The association claims it wants the labourers to be considered for the skill development council initiatives started by the prime minister. Most workshops are located in cessed buildings that belong to MHADA, but have not been maintained for a considerably long time due to redevelopment issues.

The same minister had announced earlier that he is ready to consider greater FSI for redevelopment of these buildings so that tenants and landlords do not have issues with the same.

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