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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Loss of lives, major blazes have not ensured adherence to fire safety norms in Delhi

In this year alone, there have been several major fire incidents, including the recent one at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), in the city. According to fire officials, in a majority of the fire incidents fire safety norms were either compromised or not adhered to.

delhi Updated: Sep 16, 2019 19:53 IST
Risha Chitlangia
Risha Chitlangia
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
In the Arpit Hotel incident, the emergency exit was found closed.
In the Arpit Hotel incident, the emergency exit was found closed. (HT PHOTO.)
         

In June 1997, the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy had claimed 59 innocent lives.

Twenty-two years later, the fire incident at Arpit Hotel in Karol Bagh in February this year brought back painful memories of the Uphaar tragedy, as 17 people lost their lives.

In this year alone, there have been several major fire incidents, including the recent one at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), in the city. According to fire officials, in a majority of the fire incidents fire safety norms were either compromised or not adhered to.

In the Arpit Hotel incident, the emergency exit was found closed. (HT had reported this on February 14, 2019).

Chief fire officer Atul Garg said that the five-storeyed building didn’t have fire clearance. The skylift --an elevated platform used for dousing fires in high-rise buildings—couldn’t be used for the first few hours as unorganised parking and some trees didn’t allow fire-fighters to take the skylift up to the burning building. (HT had reported this on August 18, 2019).

The recent fire incidents in the city have, once again, raised a question mark on our seriousness about fire safety, especially of public spaces such as markets.

Since 2011, the Supreme Court and the Delhi High court have pulled up government agencies in the national capital several times for not enforcing fire safety measures, especially in restaurants.

In May this year, the Delhi High Court had criticised the fire safety norms, which were based on the number of seats in an individual restaurant and not on the capacity of the building. The court had observed that the norms are “moronic”.

The norms were recently changed and any restaurant with area more than 90sq.m now have to take fire clearance even if the number of seats is less than 50. But not many restaurants have taken permission. According to Garg, just 600-odd eateries in Delhi have fire NOC.

The seriousness of government agencies about fire safety can be adjudged from the fact that only two restaurants in Khan market, one of Delhi’s VVIPs markets, and very few restaurants in Connaught Place have fire clearance, according to fire officials. Garg said that one of the main reasons why a majority of restaurants in Khan market don’t have fire clearance is because of single entry and exit route, and narrow staircases.

Since 2011, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has been working on a redevelopment plan for Khan Market with special focus on fire safety. But the plan is yet to see the light of day.

It is about time we ensured the fire safety of buildings, especially in public spaces which are visited by lakhs of people daily.

First Published: Sep 16, 2019 19:43 IST

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