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28 hotels in Delhi told to shut after Karol Bagh fire incident, still taking guests

Continuing its drive against nonconforming buildings in Karol Bagh, the Delhi government said it had suspended fire safety certificates of 28 more hotels, forcing them to shut down.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2019 19:41 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Karol Bagh fire,Delhi fire,India news
View of the hotel after a massive fire broke out at Karol Baghs Arpit Palace hotel in which at least 17 people were killed and several injured, in New Delhi on Tuesday.(ANI file photo)

Continuing its drive against nonconforming buildings in Karol Bagh, the Delhi government said it had suspended fire safety certificates of 28 more hotels, forcing them to shut down.

But spot checks at some of these hotels on Saturday revealed guests were still present in these accommodations and new bookings were being accepted. Delhi home minister Satyendar Jain on Saturday said until Friday midnight, the Delhi Fire Service (DFS) checked fire safety mechanisms in 80 hotels. Of them, fire certificates of 58 were suspended for 15 days. “All will be shut. The drive will continue,” Jain said.

The weekend was packed with activity in Karol Bagh as all three agencies — DFS, North Delhi Municipal Corporation and the Delhi police — were found to be on the ground, conducting random inspections. According to rules, such accommodations cannot operate in the current circumstances as suspension of the fire safety certificate automatically means cancellation of the health trade licence issued by the municipal corporation.

On Saturday, hotel owners who have faced the brunt in the past four days were seen making frantic calls to dealers selling fire equipment to get alarms, sprinklers and extinguishers installed, repaired or replaced in their multi-storeyed buildings.

JN Chawla, co-owner of two hotels in the area, one of which received a suspension notice, said the agencies should give more time to them “to set things right”.

Also read | Arpit Palace fire: Hotel owner ‘hiding’ in Qatar, was booked in forgery case by CBI

“Somehow the water motor of my hotel did not function just when the officials came to inspect the building. That was it. Our fire licence was suspended. They told us the motor should work so as to be able to supply water to the fire hose installed in the upper floors,” Chawla said, adding the hotel is still accepting customers as they cannot turn down prebookings.

While the government calls these buildings “hotels”, on paper they are termed “guest houses” because Karol Bagh, like the city’s Walled City area, enjoys a special status under the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act. No hotels can come up in the area and only guest houses are allowed.

A hotel on Ajmal Khan Road, Rockwell Plaza, which got the suspension notice on February 14, was found to be operational and fully booked. “We are packed with guests and cannot offer any room until Monday,” said a hotel staff requesting anonymity. The owner of the hotel, Shailendra Khandelwal, could not be reached for a comment.

Agencies, however, gave different numbers of licences being cancelled.

Adesh Gupta, Mayor of North MCD, said the civic body cancelled the health trade licences of 30 hotels until Saturday. “Our teams are conducting independent surveys and sharing their findings on violations with the fire department,” he said.

Asked why such hotels continue to operate, Gupta said, “They need to be given some time to get their guests out. They are being given about four days,” he said. The police said it is working based on the information shared by its licensing office and the fire department. “Police are vacating hotels, whose licences are cancelled. So far, we have got 13 such hotels vacated,” said DCP (central) MS Randhawa.

The hotel owners of Karol Bagh held a meeting on Saturday afternoon in which it was decided they would cooperate with the agencies to get fire safety mechanisms in place. A delegation would meet chief minister Arvind Kejriwal this week.

Also read | 30 Karol Bagh hotels to be shut over fire safety

First Published: Feb 17, 2019 19:41 IST