After crackdown on CP rooftop restaurants, is Delhi’s Khan Market next? | delhi | Hindustan Times
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After crackdown on CP rooftop restaurants, is Delhi’s Khan Market next?

Khan Market, a favourite haunt in Delhi, may be a disaster waiting to happen just like the iconic Connaught Place, if experts and traders are to be believed.

delhi Updated: Feb 23, 2017 17:48 IST
Ritam Halder
New Delhi Municipal Council is working on a policy so that fire clearance is made mandatory for all eateries in Khan Market.
New Delhi Municipal Council is working on a policy so that fire clearance is made mandatory for all eateries in Khan Market.(Sushil Kumar/HT Photo)

Khan Market, a favourite haunt in Delhi, may be a disaster waiting to happen just like the iconic Connaught Place, if experts and traders are to be believed.

The roof of Unplugged Courtyard, a restaurant in L-Block, caved in on February 10 — a few days after New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) banned dining on the terrace in Connaught Place due to safety concerns. On February 2, a part of the C Block building near the popular Jain Book Depot collapsed.

The NDMC shut down the rooftop sections of 21 open-air restaurants after the incident at C Block.

There are 156 shops and 74 residential spaces in Khan Market, which was set up as a neighbourhood market in 1950 and is now one of the most expensive commercial spaces in the world.

Of the 74 residential spaces on the first and second floors, 44 are engaging in commercial activities housing 30 restaurants, while another 10 eateries are located on the ground floor.

Delhi Fire Service chief GC Mishra said every structure has certain limitations and overloading the rooftops of these structures are causing a lot of harm. If you keep loading indiscriminately, then it becomes unsafe.

“Be it Connaught Place or Khan Market. Any construction, especially one which is more than 50 years old, with time it’s loading capacity decreases. If you keep adding floors to these and put generators, water tanks and mobile towers, they will become vulnerable. Safety is largely influenced by loading characteristics,” Mishra told HT.

Khan Market was initially meant for shops on the ground floor and residential flats on the first floor. In 2000, residential flats on the first floor were converted into commercial complexes. In the past few years, most restaurants have come up on the first and above floors.

“These were meant for four people. Instead, if there are 40 people, the load gets multiplied. There is an inadequacy in the law regarding the number of persons these establishments can cater to,” the fire chief said.

Restaurants that have a seating capacity of more than 50 need necessary clearances from the fire department. However, those with a seating capacity of less than 50 need no such nod from the fire personnel.

“Most restaurants at Khan Market have got their licenses showing a seating arrangement of 48 people and thereby are out of the ambit of the fire department’s jurisdiction. The law needs to be revisited. Criteria for determining the number of seats should be made methodically, rather than leaving it up to the restaurants,” Mishra said.

Cars parked in a haphazard manner at Khan Market. (Raj K Raj/HT photo)

In November last year, Delhi high court directed NDMC to reconsider its policy that exempts restaurants with a seating capacity of fewer than 50 persons from obtaining clearance under the Delhi Fire Service Act, observing that the eateries on the first-floor flats of the market are a disaster waiting to happen.

“We are working on making changes to the policy so that fire clearance is made mandatory for all eateries in Khan Market. This is being done in compliance with high court orders. Inspections are also being done to check unapproved constructions,” a senior NDMC official said.

In its order in October, the high court directed the NDMC and the Delhi Fire Service to decide within two months whether the first-floor flats that can cater to more than 50 persons qualify as “assembly building” and, if yes, whether these eateries satisfied all requirements, including fire safety norms.

“NDMC cannot on the one hand assume the power to grant licence for using the premises as a restaurant/eatery and on the other hand absolve itself of responsibility to satisfy itself that restaurant does not pose a fire hazard to the safety of those patronising the same and that in the event of fire, proper measures for evacuation of the patrons therein and to prevent the fire from spreading to the entire market, exist,” the court had said.

Fire officials say Khan Market has over the years become so congested that reaching there in the time of emergency is also a problem. “Fire brigade response time will also get hindered due to this. There is no provision for fire exits, too,” an official said.

The Khan Market Traders association had in 2013 moved Delhi high court against NDMC for allegedly not having implemented the redevelopment plan, which included a fire emergency plan, thereby putting lives of traders, shoppers and visitors at risk.

A team from IIT-Roorkee conducted a survey on the structural safety of the market almost 2 years ago as part of the Khan Market redevelopment project. The revamp proposal, however, is stuck.

“We are scared. Khan Market is in a similar situation, too. Every year, the foundation of these buildings gets weaker and the load has increased manifold posing a grave danger to these structures.

“Experts from IIT-Roorkee were hired by New Delhi Municipal Council two years back for advice on retrofitting of the old structures of this market established in 1950. However, we are yet to see any real action,” Khan Market traders’ association president Sanjeev Mehra said.

Box

There are 156 shops and 74 residential spaces in Khan Market

Khan Market was set up as a neighbourhood market in 1950

It is one of the most expensive commercial spaces in the world

Of the 74 residential spaces on the first and second floors, 44 engage in commercial activities house 30 restaurants.

Another 10 eateries are located on the ground floor

Khan Market was initially meant for shops on the ground floor and residential flats on the first floor

In 2000, residential flats on the first floor were converted into commercial complexes

In the past few years, most restaurants have come up on the first and above floors

Fire officials say Khan Market has over the years become so congested that reaching there in the time of emergency is also a problem

The Khan Market Traders association had in 2013 moved Delhi high court against NDMC for allegedly not having implemented the redevelopment plan, which included a fire emergency plan, thereby putting lives of traders, shoppers and visitors at risk