Delhi factory fire aftermath: No fire safety audit conducted in Panchkula
The Delhi fire tragedy that claimed the lives of 43 people on December 8, has exposed the many chinks in our fire safety system.
The officials in Panchkula are solely banking on their recently- procured high-tech equipment to stave off a similar tragedy and are yet to carry out a fire safety audit.
Many places in Panchkula have a precarious web of wires and electricity poles in close proximity to houses, many of which stand along narrow streets. In case of an emergency, it would be impossible for large fire tenders to navigate these narrow lanes. Only a bike or at best a jeep will be able to get to these tinderboxes. Some of the areas that need urgent attention, include the housing board houses in Sector 15, Buddanpur village, Abheypur village in Sector 19, Haripur village in Sector 4, Ralla village in Sector 12 and Rally village in Sector 12A.
In the aftermath of the Surat tragedy, authorities had momentarily swung into action and had carried out certain drives but they did not check whether their directives had been complied with. As per the Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran (HSVP) policy, no coaching centres, institutes or tuition centres can run on the first and second floors of buildings. A survey of such institutes was conducted and notices were issued to defaulters.The HSVP had issued notices to over 60 coaching centres in the city but none of them have been issued NOCs as yet.
Numerous coaching centres and educational institutes on the first and second floors of showroom-cum-offices (SCOs) and shop-cum-flats (SCFs) in markets are running in contravention of HSPVs policy. HSVP estate officer Mamta Sharma says, “After the notices were issued, a hearing was initiated. However, few owners showed up for the same. No other extension or notice will be issued now and action for resumption of the properties will be initiated in case of non-compliance with bylaws.”
The fire department had also issued notices to a number of institutes, vends and residential societies asking them to comply with the norms. As the establishments had no fire safety arrangements in place, they were asked to build fire exit on the backsides of their properties. However, the department did not pursue the matter further. Panchkula fire station officer Shamsher Malik said, “We will start a drive from this week onwards to check fire safety standards and norms. We had issued notices earlier but we did not receive any self-declaration from the people concerned and no NOCs have been issued. However, some residential societies have set up fire extinguishers.”
The MC was planning to hire a consultant for the fire safety audit but as it did not get approval from the state urban local bodies, the plan was shelved. MC commissioner Rajesh Jogpal said no fire safety audit had been conducted for the city. However, the executive officer with fire department conducts drives at frequent intervals. “The department was recently provided with safety gears and modernised equipments. For congested areas, the department has a fire jeep, which is approachable. We are also planning to get a bigger hydraulic ladder.”
He added that the MC is in the process of getting approval for a few sub-stations and new fire stations within close proximity. This will reduce the time taken by fire tenders to reach accident sites in sectors along the Zirakpur-Pinjore NH. There is no fire station in Raipur Rani, Pinjore and Morni.