Gurugram’s Qutub Plaza market faces closure over lack of fire safety equipment
The Qutub Plaza complex in DLF Phase 1, one of the most popular markets in the city, faces the risk of being shut as the market has failed to get a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the fire department even 31 years after it was established.
On Tuesday, the fire department, which comes under the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG), said that the complex will be sealed if the situation doesn’t change.
IS Kashyap, assistant divisional fire safety officer, said that barring a few fire extinguishers, no other fire fighting equipment — such as water hydrants, hose pipe, sprinkler system, smoke detectors, and sand buckets — have ever been installed in the four-storey complex since 1988 when it was built. Besides, the corridors of the market were also encroached by vendors at many points on the ground floor, he said.
On Monday, the MCG got an approval from the Urban Local Bodies (ULB) to seal the complex. Prior to sealing, the fire department will be issuing a final notice to the market association to comply with fire safety norms as per the Haryana Fire Service Act.
“The fire department has been regularly issuing notices to the Qutub Plaza Association (QPA) members since 2009, but they have failed to comply with the fire safety norms. They have practically no measures in place to combat fire. We will be issuing them a final notice. If they fail to comply even then, we will seal the building,” said Kashyap.
Besides Qutub Plaza, the ULB had given approval to the MCG for sealing Vyapar Kendra in Sushant Lok 1, Scottish Mall on Sohna Road, and Ultra Home Construction Private Limited in IMT Manesar.
Kashyap said that the Vyapar Kendra Association procured fire NOC last week, prior to ULB sending its order. He said that Scottish Mall had the necessary fire safety equipment in place and only its NOC had expired, while talks were ongoing with Ultra Home Construction for procuring an NOC.
“The problem with the Qutub Plaza Association is that it is not even communicating with the fire department. Vyapar Kendra Association got their NOC within four days after we apprised them of the possible ULB direction. We want to reach out to QPA to ascertain the time limit for the notice period as upgrading fire fighting equipment is an expensive prospect. We want to make sure they have enough time for arranging or accumulating the necessary funds to do so,” said Kashyap.
Fire officials said that fire department usually gives one month to owners for upgrading their fire safety equipment, and the same will be applicable to QPA, unless it is able to present any reasonable argument for extending the time period by another month.
Spread across two acres, the Qutub Plaza complex has a daily footfall of 2,000-2,500, and has 480 properties including commercial offices, restaurants, banks and shops.
According to fire officials, the main reason for the lack of fire fighting equipment is an ongoing dispute between the market’s association and DLF, which had built the complex. In 2000, the association had taken over the building from DLF. Kashyap said that both parties want the other to install the fire fighting system, and they are yet to reach an agreement on it.
TJ Satheesan, a member of the QPA, said that the association was formed in 1995, and five years later it took over the complex from DLF.
Satheesan said that no fire safety equipment was present at the time, and it was only in 2009 — a year after the MCG was formed and the Haryana Fire Service Act was constituted — that the first notice was served to the association for procuring a fire NOC.
He said that the association immediately approached the district court and got a stay on the MCG order. In 2016 when the MCG sent a sealing notice, then the association approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court and got an interim stay on the sealing order.
“At both the district court and the high court, we presented an argument that it was DLF’s responsibility for upgrading the fire fighting system while we are maintaining what we had received. DLF only handed over the occupation certificate (OC) to us, and never gave us the completion certificate. Hence, it was their responsibility to get the upgrade,” Satheesan said, adding that the next date of hearing on the matter is September 20 in Chandigarh.
DLF officials said that building had been constructed as per the approved building plan in 1980s and later the complex was handed over to the association in 2000.
“DLF constructed the building as per the existing norms in the 1980s, based on which the OC was issued. By the time the fire safety norm under the Haryana Fire Service Act, 2009 was implemented, the building had already been handed over to the association. Hence, it is the association’s responsibility for upgrading the fire fighting systems,” said a spokesperson for DLF.