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Fire safety norms go for a toss at NMC head office

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NAGPUR: The fire and emergency services department of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) often issues notices to owners of private and commercial establishments for flouting fire safety norms. But, it seems to have turned a blind eye towards NMC’s own premises. A case in point is Chhatrapati Shivaji administrative building — the headquarters of the NMC — where the fire safety norms go for a toss.
Situated in Civil Lines, absence of fire safety measures here poses a threat to not only NMC employees but also to people’s representatives and visitors. Fire extinguishers, sand buckets and other equipment to control fire are missing at the seven-storey building, which was completed only a couple of years ago.

On May 9, the chief fire officer Rajendra Uchake served three-hour notice to the NMC’s executive engineer Sanjay Jaiswal to inspect the administrative building to ascertain the adequacy of fire prevention and fire safety measures under relevant sections of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measure Act, 2006.

The NMC obtained part compliance only for the ground floor — where the offices of municipal commissioner, additional municipal commissioner, three deputy municipal commissioners and chief fire officers are situated, while it has shifted general administration, accounts department, Smart City office, property tax, water, town planning, water works departments etc to other floors of the building.

Barring some firefighting measures like smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, which the fire department advises for all buildings and emergency staircase, all other measures are missing here. “No one knows if any of the firefighting system installed will function during an emergency in the absence of regular check by the fire safety wing,” said a source.

Soon after the notice was served, the civic administration started installing fire extinguishers. “In each floor as many as 10 extinguishers will be installed,” an NMC official said.

Now, within a couple of days, the fire department will prepare a report based on its inspection carried out on May 9.

What is more surprising that the building also houses the offices of chief fire officer Rajendra Uchake and even the Civil Lines fire station is in the same building.

The NMC, through its fire department, has to accord a fire no-objection certificate (NOC) to all buildings above 15 metres or above 150 sq metres. Leave aside the fact that it rarely checks fire safety compliance of schools, public halls or hospitals, NMC cares less about buildings where its own staff are work.

When Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measure Act, 2006, came into force in 2009, fire department started issuing notices to hotels, restaurants, malls, theatres and other commercial offices warning them of closure.

Recently, the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court pulled up Nagpur Municipal Corporation’s commissioner and chief fire officer for their lackadaisical approach in ensuring fire safety at Empress Mall.

Sources also pointed out that while the department issues NOCs to thousands of buildings, it has hardly issued compliance certificates to around 300 establishments, including schools, public halls, educational institutions, hospitals and restaurants.

The fire department officials claim that in 2016, the civic body issued notices to 1,667 buildings for lacking firefighting compliances. Besides this, it has also declared 634 buildings unsafe and directions have been issued to water works department and MSEDCL to disconnect water and power supplies to 611 buildings. It led to many of them installing firefighting equipment.

Municipal commissioner Virendra Singh, who assumed the office early this month, too has raised the fire safety issue in the building.

Secretary of Vidarbha Taxpayers’ Association Tejinder Singh Renu said: “I have always alleged that NMC fire department has different yardsticks for different people and establishments. While all rules and regulations without any perceivable logic are strictly imposed for the reasons best known to the department, but when it comes to their own buildings or crowded colonies with haphazard constructions, fire department seems to turn a deliberate blind eye towards them. And it’s not only the case with Chhatrapati Shivaji administrative building of the NMC, but many buildings constructed by the NMC and NIT including few residential and commercial buildings, NMC zone offices, markets like Phule Market etc have potential fire hazard.”

Renu said NMC should also follow the norms it enforces on others.

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