On December 22 last year, as a team of municipal officials accompanied by members of Supreme Court-monitored committee sealed ‘unauthorised’ commercial premises in upscale Defence Colony market, traders across shopping centres of the national Capital were thrown into a tizzy.
Less than a month on, the drive has so far sealed nearly 600 shops — some fully, others where portions have been barricaded — in prominent markets such as Khan Market, Meharchand Market and Defence Colony market for violations of municipal norms.
Not that rules were not bent before. In fact, these markets have mushroomed since 1960s amid a blatant disregard for municipal, environment and basic fire safety norms.
In Defence Colony, for example, residential spaces have been allegedly used for commercial use. Traders in Khan Market have allegedly extended shopping spaces beyond permissible limit while the shop owners in South Extension are fighting a battle for an increased floor area ratio (FAR). If the eateries in Hauz Khas Village, part of a Lal Dora village, are a classic example of disregard for fire safety and environment norms, Connaught Place traders have ignored heritage bylaws.
Myriad rules, multiplicity of agencies
In the latest drive against illegal shops in Delhi, 582 establishments have been fully or partially sealed. Several violations of the civic rules, fire safety and green laws make city markets vulnerable to action.
These markets came up as shop-cum-residence after 1962. In 1998, these markets were notified as Local Shopping Complexes (LSC) by DDA, allowing commercial activity on ground and two floors with 180 FAR.
Use of residential premises for commercial purpose without paying use conversion charge—one time amount fixed for local shopping complexes as per Master Plan 2021 to convert residential spaces into commercial unitsFIRE:
Many of the eateries in these markets flout fire safety norms by increasing seating facility beyond the permitted 50 guests. As per law, restaurants with seating capacity for less than 50 do not require NOC from fire deptENVIRONMENT:
A few eateries discharge untreated waste into sewers. The shops are supposed to install common effluent treatment plants along with oil ducts
Khan Market had 154 shops on the ground floor and 74 residential flats on the first floor for shopkeepers when it was established in 1950. Meharchand market was established in 1948 for refugees who migrated from Pakistan and has 153 freehold shops
The shops at these markets have been sealed for flouting building by laws by extending premises beyond the permissible limits besides changing the sanctioned layout plansFIRE:
In Khan Market, only four of 40 bars and restaurants with narrow, dimly-lit staircases and inadequate fire exits have procured NOC’s which allows them to operate with seating arrangement for more than 50ENVIRONMENT:
In Khan Market, environment violations were found and the restaurants owners were given seven days time to install ETP and grease ducts, said NDMC
Established in 1933, Connaught Place is the national Capital’s largest financial and commercial centre and is a heritage structures in Lutyen’s Delhi. Today the market is full of restaurants and pubs operating from the two floors, as well as rooftops
The restaurants here have been under scanner for converting the first floor residential premises into commercial establishments without paying conversion charges. Also, terraces of the building, which has been declared heritage, are being used to entertain guests in rampant violation of the lawsFIRE:
Only 114 establishments have procured mandatory fire safety NOC’s, according to officials of fire department. In December last year, Delhi High Court issued notices to the Central and Delhi governments and police on a petition seeking closure of eateries which are running without fire clearances in CP area
Hauz Khas VillageCATEGORY:
The Hauz Khas Village market is part of Lal Dora, where civic or urban laws are not applicable
The medley restaurants and noisy are marred by the un-restricted boom of residential and commercial establishments. There is an acute lack of basic amenitiesFIRE:
The restaurants have narrow staircases with a common exit. In September last year, the Delhi HC, while referring to the poor emergency and fire safety preparedness of Hauz Khas, termed the area a "ticking time bomb".ENVIRONMENT:
In September 2017, 21 pubs were shut for violation of green laws. The establishments does not have equipment to prevent air and water pollution, according to Delhi Pollution Control Committee
The shops in the two markets (1 & 2) are notified as Local Shopping Complexes (LSCs) by the DDA. Both came up in 1960s
Both the markets have been accused of violating building norms by having more than approved Floor Area Ratio (FAR). The traders say they are ready to pay use conversion charges at Rs 22,700 per sqm if there is uniformity in FAR. Some buildings have been approval for 300 FAR. In 2011, the SDMC sent sealing notices to 56 shops in the two markets.FIRE:
South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) says that there may be cases of violation especially in South Extention II which is another emerging hub for restaurants. But the concerned authority has not reported any violation in recent past here
GRAPHIC: HITESH MATHUR
“Most of the markets have blatantly violated bylaws by increasing the seating capacity and commercial spaces beyond the permissible limits. We keep penalising people but things return to square one once a drive is over. We must have stringent laws and do away with involvement of multiple agencies,” said a South civic body official.
According to Arunava Dasgupta, head of urban design at School of Planning and Architecture , “If the planner will not envisage the growth of market in terms of policy and laws, then they will become vulnerable places. If growth is not anticipated and provision for expansion is not created, laws will be violated. A pre-emptive approach is needed to stop this.”
“Take Lajpat Nagar for example which was a small vegetable market with a few groceries. But since it was located along the Ring Road, expansion was inevitable. The problem is authorities failed to anticipate it,” he added.
VK Gautam, director, enforcement, New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), said the civic body had found violations and issued notices to shops earlier. “Our enforcement and health team is conducting a fresh survey again, We will ensure that no one flouts norms,” he said.
Last time, sealing was done in Delhi by municipal authorities in 2006, when the SC-appointed panel cracked down on unauthorised constructions. Besides, local and civic authorities keep running drives against the violators. Last week, after the Kamala Mills fire incident in Mumbai, the Council warned traders associations to ensure that the restaurants abide by trade licence conditions, fire safety norms and follow permitted sitting capacity.
The market associations, while acknowledging violations, demanded a foolproof policy with less hassles.
“There are shop owners who violate norms. But the civic authorities should intimate us through notices before taking any action. Also, the conversion rates fixed by DDA are too high and rules should be more clear,” Atul Bhargava, president New Delhi Traders’ Association.
Vijay Arora, of the South Extension Market Association, agreed. “We do not mind paying conversion charges. But there should be uniformity in FAR. For some shops the civic body has approved 300 FAR ,for others it is less,” he said.