Delhi: Mukherjee Nagar PGs in violation of bylaws, finds survey
A senior municipal official overseeing the door-to-door survey said that 104 PG units have been earmarked
At least 100 paying guest (PG) accommodations in north Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar area are operating in violation of building by-law regulations, a survey by the building department of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has found.
A senior municipal official overseeing the door-to-door survey said that 104 PG units have been earmarked and show-cause notices are being issued to the owners asking why the premises must not be sealed.
The four-day survey was carried out after a massive fire broke out last week in a women’s PG unit in N Block, Mukherjee Nagar. At least 35 people were inside the four-storey building when the blaze broke out. Five people were injured in the incident.
“We have photographed these units. If a satisfactory answer is not provided to the show cause notice, it will be followed by a sealing drive,” the official added.
MCD is focusing on PG accommodations operating in buildings more than 9 metres in height and have more than 20 people staying in them. The fire broke at the PG just a day after 20 coaching centres were sealed by the building department in the same area in the aftermath of a blaze in June.
“According to the Master Plan of Delhi regulations and Unified Building Byelaws that came into effect after 2007, such units with more than 20 students and above 9m buildings cannot operate without a fire NOC. Only one unit was found operating with fire NOC issued by the Delhi Fire Services (DFS). We will also submit these findings in our action-taken report on the coaching centre fire safety case,” the official added. To be sure, MCD does not issue licences to operate PG units.
The Delhi high court is expected to hear the matter regarding fire safety for coaching centres and action taken by the civic body on October 10.
The issue of fire safety in coaching centres of Mukherjee Nagar came under the spotlight after a June 15 blaze at an institute, which injured 61 students. The Delhi high court on July 25 directed MCD to shut down all coaching centres and other commercial activities allowed under mixed land use in the city if they do not have fire clearance certificates.
MCD officials said that, so far, 44 premises have been sealed in the area, most of which were operating in basement and mezzanine floors.“No such activity is permitted in the basement area and it is a clear fire hazard. Out of these 44 units, 24 were coaching centres while the rest were libraries, reading rooms, etc. We have also issued notices to units running on the first to the third floor and a hearing has been sought by them. We will have to wait for them to present their documents,” a second official associated with the drive said.
According to MCD, coaching centres and PG houses can operate provided they adhere to the minimum plot size and minimum right of way of roads on which they are located. However, they must have fire NOC if the building height is more than 9m and the number of people occupying it is more than 20.
Meanwhile, owners of such PG units and coaching centres said that blaming these units after the fire is “not fair” as no clear regulations have been defined for them. “Coaching institutes were allowed to operate in commercial areas, mixed land areas, and residential areas by being included in ‘Other Activities’ Section 15.7 of the MPD 2021 subject to following the norms of ROW of road. The amendment regarding 20 people in one unit and the need for fire NOC was unjustly added in 2020 whereby coaching centres with 20 or more people were clubbed under the category of ‘educational building’,” said Keshav Aggarwal, president, Educators’ Society, a union of coaching centres. He said the clubbing was done in a hurry and led to stringent regulations under the educational building by-laws.
HT reached out to MCD and DFS, but they did not respond to queries. Meanwhile, experts said the stakeholders in the matter — MCD, DFS, police, DDA and operators/owners -- need to formulate fire safety policies as there were too many “grey areas”. “Whenever there is an assembly of people irrespective of residential or commercial nature, we should have mandatory fire NOC,” said Jagdish Mamgain, former works committee chairman in the erstwhile unified MCD and an expert on the Master Plan.