Renu Kumari Paswan has been working as a security guard for nearly 6 months , saving up each month’s salary to enroll into a good college to pursue a career in humanities. On Saturday night, her plans came crashing down, when her home- a shanty in Shahdara village of Noida’s Sector 137- got burnt to the ground.
Her home was one amongst the 70-80 shanties that were reduced to ashes when fire broke out around 1:30 am. According to the residents, a firecracker from a passing baraat could have caused the fire.
“I came to know at around 2:30 am. There was a wedding procession going on in the village. There are electric wires over here,” Pradeep, a resident of the village, told YKA when asked about the cause of the fire.
Paswan’s father rides an e-rickshaw for a living. In the fire, she not only lost money, but documents crucial for her to get admission into a university. “My mother said, ‘We don’t have the money. We can’t educate you’. But, I told her, ‘I can work on my own and study’. But now I don’t have anything. All necessary documents got burnt in the fire,” she tells YKA.
Shattibul is another resident who lost his home to the fire. He came to live in the slum 6 to 7 months ago. Except his e-rickshaw, nothing of his household now remains.
“I don’t even have my slippers left. How will I go to work?” asks an infuriated Sentu Mandal, another resident, who works at nearby construction-sites.
Says Triveni, another resident, “We ran. A phone was tied to my waist. It fell and broke down. We had two cycles, a cart- everything got burnt“.
Fellow villagers and those who live in nearby apartments have been helping out those whose home got ravaged in the fire, providing them food and clothes. Most are currently couched in a makeshift tent made near the site.
District Magistrate NP Singh has said that rehabilitation will be provided but residents are yet to see help from the government. People who identify themselves as owners of the land have only started clearing the plot so far and say that they will help rebuild the slum.
According to National Crime Records Bureau data, there were 1441 cases of accidental fires in UP in 2015. 1522 people lost their lives in these fires in 2015 alone. Yet, government response to fires has remained staggered at best.
The fire department of Gautam Budh Nagar district in fact faces a severe staff crunch and a shortage of fire stations. Residents of the slum told YKA that the fire tenders had to be brought from Noida Phase 1, around 10 kilometres away. Five new fire stations were commissioned about two years ago but fire department officials told YKA that none of them have been completed yet. “The fire engines arrived when everything got burnt to the ground,” an angry resident told YKA.