In the last six and a half years, the Mumbai fire brigade has sent notices to 4,592 housing societies for flouting fire norms, but has initiated prosecution against just 14 of them, revealed an RTI query. But the department is trying to up its game as it plans to launch a software — Building Inspection System — that will update them on societies failing to submit compliance certificates every year.
Activist Jeetendra Ghadge had filed the query with the BMC, the response to which said that between January 2010 and June 2016, 4,592 buildings were issued notices under Section 6 of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2009 for not maintaining the building's internal fire fighting system. The internal system includes fire detection, sprinklers, smoke detectors, functional hose-reel and water tank among other equipments.
The brigade had conducted an inspection for 8,840 structures in the city during the same time, said the response. ”The court proceedings also take a long time but that does not stop a building from being a fire trap. The department needs to expedite the process,” Ghadge said.
The fire officials said compliance on part of housing societies and lack of follow-up from the BMC’s end contributed to the dismal numbers. Once the notice is issued, societies are given 24 hours to 120 days to comply with the order, depending on the gravity of the situation.
A senior fire official said, “We agree that the number of notices translating into prosecution cases is less. There is lack of follow-up from the administration's side which also delays the process."
As per the Act, buildings are supposed to conduct a fire audit twice a year — in January and July — and submit the fitness certificates to the brigade. However, this process is hardly followed, officials said.
The brigade has 132 nominated fire officials, who conduct building inspections, which, according to fire officials, are far less than required.
To beat the manual process, the brigade is now building an online software, which will help them track defaulters with regular updates. The civic body had appointed private consultant, Price Waterhouse Cooper to design it.
Chief Fire Officer, PS Rahangdale, said, “We usually give the compliance notice to the defaulters and if it is not done within 120 days, which is the maximum stipulated time, they are liable to be prosecuted. In majority of the cases, buildings do comply with the rules but it is difficult to keep track of such defaulters and thus this software will help us identify and prosecute them.”