Chandigarh’s beloved Sector 17 sitting on tinderbox | punjab$chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Chandigarh’s beloved Sector 17 sitting on tinderbox

New audit, same old story: MC dept finds major violations of fire-safety norms during survey of 100 showrooms; no follow-up action taken after previous audit in 2015

punjab Updated: Aug 03, 2017 13:53 IST
Hillary Victor 
Fire at the Punjab Financial Corporation building in Bank Square on July 3 brought the MC officials back in action.
Fire at the Punjab Financial Corporation building in Bank Square on July 3 brought the MC officials back in action. (HT File )

An audit conducted by the civic body in the wake of the July-3 blaze at Bank Square has found glaring violations of fire-safety norms in Sector 17.

Major violations
  • 1. Fire extinguishers with ISI mark not installed on each floor 
  • 2. Hose reels with accessories not provided 
  • 3. Automatic detecting alarm system not installed 
  • 4. Illuminated exit sign not installed
  • 5. Fire lift with firemen switch not provided 

Three teams of the municipal corporation (MC)’s fire department conducted the survey at 100 showrooms. They have submitted a report to MC chief fire officer Shilpi Pattar Dutta, listing out shortcomings in each showroom. 

From fire extinguishers with ISI mark missing from the premises to non-provision of hose reels, from absence of any fire control room to missing illuminated exit signs, the violations are plenty. 

Loosely hanging electricity wires are also posing danger at most of these showrooms. Also, the mandated 10,000-litre terrace water tank has not been installed and underground static water storage tank of 75,000-litre capacity with diesel and electric pump has not been provided in most of the buildings, the audit teams have pointed out.

140 notices issued in 2015

In 2015, too, a similar exercise had found that almost all buildings in Sector 17 were flouting fire-safety norms. As many as 140 notices were issued, but sources say the fire officials did not carry out any inspection after that.

Major fires in Sec 17
  • July 3, 2017: The Punjab treasury and accounts office located on the fourth floor of the Punjab Financial Corporation building was gutted. Major fire-safety violations were found in the building
  • June 9, 2014: Two firemen died as a four-storeyed building collapsed due to fire at the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology in Sector 17 
  • August 25, 2011: Crucial records were destroyed at the Punjab National Bank branch. The fire started on the fourth floor of the building, where all bank servers for northern India were installed along with large batteries

The fire on the fourth floor of the Punjab Financial Corporation building in the Bank Square on July 3 once again brought the officials in action. Dutta said the department will again issue notices to the violators for strict compliance of fire-safety norms mandated under the National Building Code of India 2016.

“If they don’t comply within a month, strict action will be taken. The buildings may be sealed, owners may be fined or even imprisoned for six months,” she said. On the other hand, traders say as the Fire Safety Act was passed in 1986, rules framed in 1991 and the building code in 2016, these should not be applicable to buildings that were constructed in 1950.  Chandigarh Traders’ Association president Kamaljit Singh Panchhi said it is difficult to install fire-safety equipment in old buildings.

“At most, we can install fire extinguishers. Even in 2015, we gave a representation to the then chief fire officer, but got no relaxation. Instead of issuing notices, the department should educate the building owners and tenants about practical solutions,” he said.

 3 weeks on, no action against govt buildings

Before conducting the audit of showrooms, the fire department also issued notices to government buildings in Sector 17 on July 10. Those put on notices were officers concerned in the MC building, UT deputy commissioner (DC)’s office and buildings of the Registration and Licensing Authority (RLA) and UT food and supplies department for glaring violations. But no action has been taken to date. All these buildings house offices directly dealing with the public, and witness a huge footfall every day.