LAHORE - “There was a piece of food in Khizer’s hand and another in Safdar’s mouth when I pulled their bodies out of the debris of factory’s roof collapse,” says Shoukat Ali, the uncle of two workers who died in Shahpur Kanjaran last week.

Safdar Iqbal and Khizar Iqbal, both brothers, and their cousin Waqar Hussain were killed in the roof collapse that also injured two others.

The fateful incident has apparently shaken the government, as Chief Minister’s Inspection Team along with other agencies is probing the roof collapse. “Appropriate action will be taken in accordance with the report findings,” District Labour Officer Chaudhry Nasar told The Nation yesterday.

The official added that the department will lodge criminal cases against those involved in negligence that led to the terrible incident. A total of Rs0.9 million will be given to the victim families.

According to the deceased’s uncle, the brothers were having breakfast just before the tragedy.

“Their duty used to start from 11: 30pm and they were bound to work till 7am. Every job has a break but the sweepers who work for Rs9,000 at the factory are not allowed to have a break (either for food or for tea).

“This was the reason they were having a meal while keeping it hidden from others. And that led to their deaths,” Shaukat Ali told The Nation.

Ali, who is a gardener by profession in EME Society, said an MPA had visited the factory site and also announced Rs0.5 million for each dead. “We don’t want money but justice,” he stated.

Mazhar Iqbal, the brother of 20-year-old Safdar, said: “I have lost two brothers and one relative who were all residents of Pakkpattan village 81-D (Dak Khana). They were doing breakfast while sitting under the stairs of ‘Café Area’ when they met the tragedy,” he added.

Mazhar recalled his brother (Safdar) as the most charming person. “Whenever we called him for help and asked for any favour he was always there.”

“For me life has lost all meanings,” said Amina Bibi, the wife of Khizar, while tears rolling down her cheeks.

“He (Khizer) was my life. All is lost now. I want justice,” the young widow demanded. “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’d have to live an orphan’s life,” she regretted while expressing her financial concerns.

The minimum wage for the labourer was fixed at Rs14,000 in the fiscal year 2016-17, but the notification due to financial matter was notified in July 2016. Labour officials say they had sent notices to all factories to verify their minimum wages of workers.

The Cakes and Bakes Production Unit was also sent notice, but the team led by Multan Road-Sundar area labour officer was stopped from entering the factory for inspection on July 27.

The department has assured that an inquiry is underway and minimum wage issue will be fully checked.

Meanwhile, Punjab Food Authority director Ayesha Mumtaz said it would be pre-mature to accept the claim of factory’s owners. “An inquiry is undergoing,” said the PFA director (Operations).

“We are looking for other possible options, as third party intervention. Once the inquiry is completed and if guilt is found with the factory, an appropriate action will be taken against the factory management,” she told The Nation.

According to initial reports the tragedy occurred at 6:15 am when “a boiler blast destroyed completely the ‘Café Area’ where bakery items are used to be made”.

In an initial statement, the factory management blamed the boiler blast for the roof collapse.

However, as the officials say, the boiler is “still intact”. The deaths of underpaid workers, who were relatives, in the factory collapse exposes the negligence of authorities concerned who always show up after the tragedy.