Mohali fails to learn any lessons from fire tragedies of the past

Published on Dec 10, 2019 01:26 AM IST

The fire tragedy on December 8 in a building operating illegally as a factory at Delhi’s Anaj Mandi which left 43 men dead is a clarion call to authorities in every city to double-check safety standards

Private coaching centres in Mohali markets such as those in Phase 7 continue to flout fire-safety norms. They are closed from all sides with no properly marked exit and entry points.(ANIL DAYAL/HT)
Private coaching centres in Mohali markets such as those in Phase 7 continue to flout fire-safety norms. They are closed from all sides with no properly marked exit and entry points.(ANIL DAYAL/HT)
Hillary Victor, Mohali | By, Mohali

The fire tragedy on December 8 in a building operating illegally as a factory at Delhi’s Anaj Mandi which left 43 men dead is a clarion call to authorities in every city to double-check safety standards. In Mohali, however, no lessons seem to have been learnt even after a safety audit following the Surat coaching centre fire tragedy in May revealed several violations in most of its commercial establishments.

After submitting its report to the Mohali to deputy commissioner in June, the fire department also issued 200 notices to commercial establishments falling under its jurisdiction on June 14 seeking compliance with fire safety norms. They were warned their water and sewerage connections would be snapped.

No action, however was taken.

Compliance was impossible as the buildings were very old because of which changes could not be made as per the National Building Code which was revised in 2016.

“Some architects have filed a court cases stating that because of the age of the buildings changes according to the new building code could not be made. We feel helpless,” said Krishan Lal Kakkar, Mohali assistant divisional fire officer.

The revised rules require staircases at the rear of the commercial buildings, something that cannot be done in the existing structures.

That’s why “we cannot give no-objection certificates (NoC) until the bylaws are relaxed. There is no way to tackle the issue,” Kakkar said.

Jatinder Pal Singh, president of the Phase 3B2 Market Welfare Association, disagreed.“Even though the buildings are old why can’t we come up with a solution? It’s sad that no official meetings have been held after the fire audit in May,” he said, adding, “the authorities will wake up only after some major tragedy.”

WHAT THE REPORT SAID

The fire department report had identified 500 commercial establishments in Mohali, Kharar and Kurali which were not complying with fire safety norms and included coaching centres, hotels and other showrooms.

In Mohali, the coaching centres were located in the markets of Phases 1, 2, 3B1, 3B2, 7, 10 and 11, catering to around 8,000 students from and outside the district.

The report said none of the multi-storeyed commercial buildings had a complete firefighting system.

VIOLATIONS

  • Most of the buildings had only a single entry and exit point , which could be dangerous in an emergency
  • Fire extinguishers, missing on many floors, did not have the ISI mark
  • No hose reels installed
  • Smoke detection alarm system not installed
  • Terrace water tank of 10,000 litres or more capacity not installed
  • No illuminated exit sign or smoke check door
  • Loose electricity wiring found in most of the showrooms
  • No underground static water storage tank of 75,000 litre capacity with diesel and electric pump
  • No fire control room or fire lifts with firemen switch

ONLY THREE INDUSTRIALISTS APPLY FOR SELF DECLARATION

Just three industrialists responded to the Mohali administration’s notices in September to all industrialists for self-declaration of fire audit.

While issuing the notices, Girish Dayalan, Mohali deputy commissioner, said the comprehensive fire audit form had to be filled by industry owners as self-declaration within 15 days following which checks would be carried out and strict action taken in case of violations.

“We are giving them two weeks more, following which action will be initiated against the industrialists,” the DC said when asked if any action had been taken until now.

According to the forms the factories were categorised as low hazard, moderate hazard and high hazard with fire systems installed accordingly.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Hillary Victor is a Principal Correspondent at Chandigarh. He covers Chandigarh administration, municipal corporation and all political parties.

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