Ankush was among them, clutching in his hands the photographs of his three untraced sisters. He even visited AIIMS without luck. Sujal, 17, had similarly spent a futile time searching for his aunt since Friday night. “I am here with my uncle, who is quite old now. I am their only support. We have looked everywhere from Safdarjung Hospital to BR Ambedkar Hospital,” Sujal told TOI.
Likewise, Nafisa and her relatives went to Safdarjung, BR Ambedkar, Bhagwan Mahavir and Sanjay Gandhi Memorial hospitals to locate her sister-in-law Noosrat. A sobbing Nafisa said, “Noosrat had three children all under 10 years old. What will happen to them now? She worked in the building for a salary of Rs 6,500 and lost her life for that meagre amount.”
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Eighteen-year-old Neesha is missing. “We were shown 10 bodies at Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital, but we couldn’t recognise any as hers,” said her uncle. Ravi Gujjar, 40, too is missing, and his family from Meerut is on tenterhooks. “All we want is to find our brother,” mumbled his brother. “We have searched in various hospitals, even the scene of the fire. But neither the cops nor anyone else are giving us any information. He was wearing a bangle.”
Asha Devi proudly remembered her daughter-in-law Madhu, whom she loved as her own daughter. “She got a salary increment of Rs 1,000 this month. She has two daughters and the younger one is pestering us for her mother. What can we tell her?” sobbed Devi. When told about the compensation Delhi government had announced, all Devi had to say was, “No money can bring my daughter back, can it?”
Sweety’s mother took the overnight train to reach Delhi from Bihar after hearing her daughter was missing. Waking barefoot from the mortuary to the casualty, she wailed, “Every summer, Sweety came home for a holiday. This time, she said she had too much work. Please somebody find my daughter and bring her to me.” She became inconsolable when BJP MLA Hans Raj Hans arrived at Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
Hans consoled the mourners and said, “We should learn from this tragedy. The authorities who did not inspect the fire licences and the owners of the building are responsible … No compensation can bring back the people who died.”
Monica, 22, only started working in a packaging firm 2-3 months ago. Her aunt and cousin, both named Komal, were looking for her outside the gutted building. “Her friends are saying we should stop looking for her, but we know nothing so far,” said the cousin. “We also went to the hospital. We don’t know whether to give up or wait and for how long”
Ankush too was moving around near the scarred building asking people about his three cousins who worked at the factory. “Poonam, 20 years old, Madhu, 22, and Preeti, 24, were working here. They are from Aligarh and lived in Mubarakpur. There is no news about them and I am hoping to find them soon,” said Ankush. “I went to almost all the hospitals, even AIIMS, trying to locate them but they weren’t there anywhere. If only the authorities could tell me what happened to the three. We haven’t lost hope so far.”
Ankush’s father added, “No one is listening to our pleas. We have seen the bodies in the mortuary. We wouldn’t be able to identify the girls because the charred bodies are unrecognisable.” Preeti and Poonam, sisters, and Madhu, their cousin, worked in the same factory unit, each earning a salary of Rs 4,000.
Mahipal, father of Preeti and Poonam, said resignedly, “We now want the DNA test to be conducted as quickly as possible so we can at least know what happened to the girls. But no one is cooperating with us. We last talked to them around 4pm on Friday when they told us about the fire.”
Naseem too was seen crying and helplessly looking for his wife who worked in the building. “I spoke to her around noon on Friday. We usually asked each other if we had taken our lunch. We had that conversation and after that I got busy with my work. Later, I was on the street when I heard someone say that the building was on fire and I panicked knowing it was her work place,” said Naseem, who earlier also worked at the same factory as his wife, but found a new job for himself with a better salary. “I came running to the blaze site and began to look for her. Ever since, I have been searching for her, but haven’t located her yet. Please help me find her.” Naseem pleaded with folded hands, but everyone around was as helpless as he himself.