Union Housing and Urban Development Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Sunday blamed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government for the deaths of 43 people in a fire in Delhi, alleging it had allowed safety lapses to continue with "impunity".
The building in north Delhi's Anaj Mandi where the fire occurred flouted fire safety norms and the lanes leading to it had cables dangling dangerously, he said in a statement.
The AAP government, however, termed Puri's statement "shocking and false" and claimed that it was aimed at hiding "corruption and inefficiency" of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led civic bodies in Delhi.
"Delhi Fire Services had clearly given Sections 25, 27, & 44 of the DFS Act 2010 a go by which stipulate that a building of this height and occupancy level needed fire safety and fire prevention measures. But no known action was taken by Delhi Fire Services," said Singh's ministry in a statement.
In a series of tweets, Puri said, "The devastating fire this morning points to the lapses that were allowed to continue with impunity. It is not that the problems are not known. They were visible to the naked eye and amply corroborated by locals and witnesses."
"All well-meaning and concerned citizens of Delhi, including those who lost their loved ones or were injured in those accidents, want to know what action has Delhi CM taken on the reports of those inquiries. Were they made public? Is the situation any better now?" he asked.
Puri, who is also co-in-charge of the Delhi BJP for the upcoming assembly elections, said the Master Plan of Delhi 2021 mandates municipal corporations to prepare redevelopment plan of special areas.
"It was sent to the Urban Development Department of the Delhi government for notification in official gazette in April 2017. But despite providing all clarifications from time to time it is still pending for notification. What were these departments waiting for? Today, Delhi seeks answers," he said in another tweet.
"There have been devastating fires in Arpit Palace Hotel, Bawana Industrial Area, Kalindi Kunj, Chandni Chowk, Netaji Subhash Place to recount a few. Every time an inquiry was ordered. Even today an inquiry has been ordered," he tweeted. Hitting back at Puri, the AAP government issued a statement terming the claims "false and shocking".
"Delhi Fire Service has made it clear that this factory had no fire clearance to operate and it was illegal. Why is the Union ministry defending an illegal factory being run in violation of all rules and has taken so many innocent lives?," it posed.
It also said that the ministry was citing irrelevant rules and regulations which come into play if any enterprise runs legally according to rules which is clearly not the case here.
"It is MCDs' duty to check building plans, whether the buildings have been lawfully constructed and what activities are going on in them. Did MCD ever report any matter to the police? Was any inspection ever carried out?," the AAP government statement said.
"It is beyond any reasonable understanding as to why a Union ministry, just in order to defend corruption and inefficiency in the MCD, is stooping to this level," it added.