LAHORE: When I pulled out the dead bodies from under the debris of factory’s roof collapse I found a piece of food in Khizer’s hand and another piece of food in Safdar’s mouth

Shoukat Ali, uncle of two deceased brothers (Safdar Iqbal and Khizar Iqbal) who were killed in the roof collapse incident last Saturday, told The Nation yesterday.

“In this tragic incident I lost two brothers and one relative who were all residents of Pakkpattan village 81-D (Dakkhanna). They were sweepers and all died in this mysterious blast.

“They were in all probability eating the breakfast sitting under stairs of the ‘Café Area’ when blast occurred that led to killing of three and wounded two other labourers.

“Their duty starts from 11: 30 pm and they have to work in morning till 7 am. Every job has a break but the sweepers who work on Rs 9,000 pay at the factory are not allowed to have a break for food or tea. The deceased were daily wagers. This was the reason they had the habit of eating food while hidden from the view of others. This small act led to their unfortunate deaths,” Shaukat Ali maintained. Mazhar Iqbal, brother of the deceased Safdar, 20, was the most charming person in the community as well as in the native town in Pakpattan.

“Whenever we called him for help and asked for any favour he was always there,” Mazhar said.

Amina Bibi wife of Khizar, 24, was in deep sorrow. “We want justice. He was all my life. All is lost now. I had not asked him to earn money that he may die in the process. For me life has lost all meaning.

“I have a baby who is just 17 days old. He was born before Eidul Azha. We named him Ali Abbas. It is so unfortunate that he has been orphaned,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Punjab Food Authority Director Operations Ayesha Mumtaz told this scribe that the inquiry is under way and it is pre mature to accept the claim of factory’s owners. “We are looking for other possible options, as third party intervention. Once inquiry is completed and if factory is on guilty side, appropriate action will be taken against the factory management,” she said.

Shaukat Ali, who is a gardener by profession in E.M.E Society, said Safdar was very hard working person but unfortunately had a ‘mysterious’ disease which he had been battling through his life.

According to initial reports the tragedy occurred at 6:15 am when a boiler blast destroyed completely the ‘Café Area’ where bakery items used to be made. These items were then sent to the deepfreeze section and finally to the packing section. The initial narrate of Cakes and Bakes production plant’s owners were of boiler blast. The boiler is very much there and there seems to have been no blast.

The killing of three workers Khizer Iqbal, Safdar Iqbal and Waqar Hussain, who were relatives, in factory blast reflects the sadden side of our society and shows the negligence of concerned departments who had not inspected timely the factories situations where labourers has been working in a miserable conditions.

Shaukat Ali said a MPA visited the factory site and announced Rs 500,000 for each deceased. “We don’t want money, we want justice,” he maintained.

Lahore District Officer Labour Chaudhry Nassr said that Chief Minister’s Inspection Team (CMIT) along with concerned agencies are probing the matter and appropriate action will be taken in accordance with the report findings. He said department will lodge criminal negligence cases against those involved in negligence that led to killing of workers. Total Rs 900,000 will be given to deceased families.

The minimum wage for the labourer is fixed Rs 14,000 in the budget fiscal year 2016-17, but the notification due to financial matter were notified in July 2016. The officials of Labour Department said they had sent notices to all factories to verify their minimum wages of workers. The Cakes and Bakes Production Unit was also sent notice and on July 27 the team headed by Multan Road-Sundar area Labour Officer was stopped from entering the factory for inspection. The inquiry is being underway and minimum wage issue will be fully checked, an official of Labour Department said.