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2 lakh students at risk: Coaching classes in Pune fail fire safety audit

10-15% of classes have made necessary safety arrangements for the students: official

pune Updated: Jun 04, 2019 14:28 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,risk,Coaching classes
Coaching classes in the city, like shown here, are situated in densly populated areas, increasing the need for a fire safety audit. (Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)

Coaching classes in Pune have not taken a lesson from the Surat fire incident, as classes are found neglecting safety measures like including fire audits, risking lives of at least two lakh students in the city.

At least 22 students died and 20 were injured when a commercial complex in Surat’s Sarthana neighbourhood caught fire on May 24.

Pune boasts a maximum of coaching classes mostly cloistered in the peth areas of the old city, but the safety of many students going to at least 4,000 private coaching classes in the city is at risk. Worse, most of these classes have not carried out a fire safety audit, according to Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).

According to estimates (there are no official figures available in absence of any compiling agency), as many as 2,00,000 lakh students study through these coaching classes.

Professor Bandopant Bhuyar, non-government member of the Private Coaching Classes Regulation Committee formed by the state government, said, “At least 10 to 15 per cent of total classes have made necessary safety arrangements for the students in case of emergency, while others have shown negligence.”

“The government has formed a committee to regulate the coaching classes. The committee has submitted a report last year but the government has not acted on it,” Bhuyar added.

Some of the other concerns which risk lives of students include: narrow staircases, no window for ventilation are a common sight of classes located in buildings that are located in narrow by lanes where fire brigade vehicles may not reach in time if the Surat like tragedy breaks.

On the condition of anonymity, a person from a coaching class, said, “We have been demanding for proper rules and regulations from the Government of Maharashtra for almost two years, but there is nothing yet from them. There are many coaching classes who have sprouted recently looking at the money one can make and they are not concerned with the safety of the students.”

Narrow staircases, no window for ventilation are a common sight at classes located in buildings that are located in narrow bylanes of Sadashiv peth. ( Milind Saurkar/HT Photo )

“We provide our students comfort while studying with air-conditioned halls, WiFi connectivity and comfortable benches, but we are facing a problem of providing good toilets within the complex,” he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of students come to Pune every year to prepare for the examination conducted by the Central Public Service Commission (UPSC) and the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC). Meanwhile, two to three lakh students are already preparing for these examinations. After Class 12 exams students come to the city to prepare for national level entrance exams like Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), National Eligibility Test (NET), Common Admission Test (CAT) among others.

In many coaching classes in Sadashiv peth, there are no proper windows for ventilation. ( Milind Saurkar/HT Photo )

Wake-up call for classes

Number of coaching classes in the city: 4,000

Number of students going to these classes: At least 2 lakh in a given year

Areas where classes located: Peth areas (old city) such as Sadashiv peth, Narayan peth, Navi peth, Shukrawar peth, Kothrud, Bibwewadi and Satara road

Fire safety

- Only 10 to 15 per cent of coaching classes have carried out fire safety audit

- Classes are located in narrow by lanes, so in case if Surat-like tragedy the fire brigade vehicles may not reach in time

- Narrow staircases and no windows for ventilation

-Coaching classes are held in cramped one-room or two-room apartments in a building

- Classrooms are congested

Quotes

“We have nothing to worry about fire incidents as we are located on the ground floor. And our office is separate from where we hold our classes thrice in a day depending upon the intake of the students.”

-Tushar Thakkar, Kala Coaching Classes

“We have done a safety audit and we don’t wish to share any further information.”

- Jayashree, manager, Takalkar classes

We are not worried about any such incident taking place in my classes as I have ample parking and we are on the ground floor.

- Madhav Ganpule, Ganpule classes

“We have 200 offices in the complex. And 30 coaching classes have leased offices on the second, third and fourth floor of the complex. As a complex, we can only provide them with fire fighting equipment, but the safety of students is the responsibility of the classes.”

- Santosh Waphgaonkar, society manager of Prestige Point, where coaching classes are located

“The class I go to is packed with students and sometimes, when there is no electricity, we are sweating as we sit close to each other. There is no sprinkler system inside the class, but there is one out in the lobby.”

- Abhijeet Kale, student of Garware College, Commerce

Fire department says

“A no objection certificate is not needed in case of residential buildings which are less than 15 metres in height; but as most of these coaching classes are run in rented flats one cannot ask for a no objection certificate or if they are equipped with fire fighting equipment.”

- Prashant Ranpise, chief fire officer, Pune fire Brigade, PMC.

“The government has formed a committee to regulate coaching classes. The committee has submitted a report last year, but the government has not acted on it so far.”

- Professor Bandopant Bhuyar, non-government member, Private Coaching Classes Regulation Committee, formed by state government

Surat fire incident

At least 20 students died and 20 were injured when a commercial complex in Surat’s Sarthana neighbourhood caught fire on May 24. Some of the deceased students were expecting Gujarat board Class 12 general stream results on Saturday. The fire engulfed the second floor of the Taxshila Complex which houses a private coaching centre. An official said the institute did not follow fire safety norms, without saying what violations it was guilty of.

First Published: Jun 04, 2019 14:27 IST

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