New Delhi hotel fire
that killed 17 people on Tuesday morning has brought to the fore how buildings that have ignored fire safety norms can become death traps during a blaze.
While arrests follow after a tragedy, seldom there are crackdowns on such buildings. In Chennai, 2,684 such buildings put occupants at risk every day. These structures, which include commercial complexes and hotels, operate without the mandatory no-objection certificate (NOC) and a fire licence from the fire and rescue services.
The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), and fire and rescue services may have published separate lists of the violators, but they are yet to take any action.
According to CMDA, there are 2,439 buildings in and around the city which do not have NOC and licence to operate issued by the director of fire and rescue services. Data from the fire and rescue services shows that the CMDA has rejected regularisation of 245 buildings in Chennai citing non-compliance with fire safety norms.
A majority of these buildings were constructed between 1999 and 2003.
NOC from fire and rescue service is a prerequisite to obtain planning permission and completion certificate from the planning authority. The fire licence is mandatory for licences for business purposes.
The fire and rescue service has prescribed more than 30 requirements that should be fulfilled by the applicants to get the NOC following on an inspection.
CMDA sources said these buildings committed “gross violations by constructing additional floors” over and above the sanctioned storeys in the planning permission. “Though these structures are eligible for regularisation under the amnesty scheme for unauthorized buildings, they are unable to obtain NOC from the fire and rescue services due to violations. In the absence of NOC, they cannot be regularised,” an official said.
The CMDA began publishing the list of unsafe buildings during fire emergencies in October 2016. More than 10 hotels operating out of these buildings are not safe during fire accidents.
Around five of these are in and around T Nagar, a thickly-populated area like Karol Bagh in New Delhi where the hotel caught fire on Tuesday.
B Kannan, secretary of T Nagar Residents Welfare Association, said in 2016 the Madras high court had directed the fire and rescue services to install display boards in front of these structures saying that they were not fire safety complaint. “After an initial drive, the boards have disappeared. Moreover, commercial buildings should carry out a mock fire drill every year, which I have not seen anywhere in T Nagar,” he said.
CMDA member secretary Rajesh Lakhoni did not respond to questions on the agency’s inaction.