To reduce pollution and congestion in the heart of New Delhi, home to around 20 million people, many factories have shifted their operations to industrial clusters like the one in Bawana on the fringes of the city, where they often employ low-wage workers from neighboring states. The number of factories and industrial plots has nearly tripled to more than 50,000 from about 18,000 in 2016.
Atul Garg, the chief fire officer in Delhi, said it was unclear what had caused the fire, but officials said the presence of explosives in the building may have accelerated its spread. Two other fires were reported in factories in Bawana on Saturday, but no casualties were reported there.
“We did not find any fire safety arrangements in the building, but still it’s a matter of police investigation,” Mr. Garg said by telephone of the deadly blaze.
Building and safety inspections are unevenly enforced in Bawana. The police said that Manoj Jain, a businessman who rented the factory at the beginning of the year, had obtained a license to make plastic items, but firefighters found material used to pack fire crackers in the building, he said.
“Anything to do with firecrackers needs fire clearance.”
Mr. Jain, who was taken into custody, has been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and with negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible materials.
Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of the state of Delhi, said the families of the deceased would receive compensation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply anguished” by the fire, and that his “thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives.”