India: 6 migrant workers die in bakery fire after being locked inside - owner arrested, NGOs urge stronger enforcement of labour laws

Author: Roli Srivastava, Thomson Reuters Foundation (UK), Published on: 3 January 2017

Six die in India bakery fire, spurs calls for enforcement of labour laws, 3 Jan 2017

Six migrant workers who had been locked inside a bakery by their employer...suffocated to death in a fire, triggering calls for decades-old labour laws to be implemented to crack down on worker exploitation and abuse. A short circuit caused a fire in a bakery in Pune in western Maharashtra state...when the workers were asleep on the mezzanine floor... They were unable to escape as the bakery owner had locked the shutter door from outside to prevent theft...

"When such cases occur, the law enforcement agencies look at the more obvious crime and ignore other sections" of the law, said Chandan Kumar, a core group member on bonded labour with the National Human Rights Commission. The employer was arrested and charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, keeping the workers locked up, constructing an illegal mezzanine where the workers lived and worked, and operating the bakery without government approval. Activists say the employer should also have been charged with violating labour laws.

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