When a fire devastated Hotel Arpit Palace in Karol Bagh, New Delhi, in February and claimed 17 lives, authorities in the region had started a crackdown on hotels, building and commercial places with fire audit teams. Similar fire audits were also done in other states, but last weeks fatal fire in Surat, Gujarat, which killed several students shows that no lessons have been learnt by authorities who keep ignoring fire safety norms.
The Surat fire took place at an illegal structure and claimed the life of 22 young students. The disaster even dampened the euphoria following the election results. Sensing brewing trouble and to avoid a public backlash, the Gujarat state government immediately sprung to action on Sunday, asking builders of more than 9,000 properties, including over 1,100 in the diamond city, to equip themselves with fire safety installations within three days or face closure.
“It is a bad wake-up call, but we will initiate strict action to ensure this does not happen again anywhere. We are very sad about the fire in Surat,” Gujarat chief secretary J N Singh told reporters. Even as the state sprang to action, at least 50 properties in Surat were sealed for violations of fire safety norms. Around 1,123 properties in the city, and 9,965 properties across Gujarat have also been issued notices for not adhering to fire safety norms.
However, many citizens say that it should not take a tragedy to serve as a wake-up call to the government when there were already laws to prevent them.
While similar action had been initiated when the Arpit Palace tragedy happened in Delhi, locals claim that many of the businesses served notices for fire safety violations are already up and running as the incident faded from memory.
“Initially there was news of cancellation of licences of many shopkeepers and vendors. But, after just a month, the illegal shops were back in business, right under the nose of authorities. It is only when such tragedies happen that some action is initiated... just as an eyewash,” lamented Kishore Sharma, a garment shopowner in Karol Bagh.
Many residents at Noida, Ghazhiabad and Gurgaon have also flagged concerns over the open violations of fire safety norms by developers and hoteliers, but till date, not much action has been initiated.
Thousands of notices served across state
1,123 properties in Surat, and 9,965 properties across Gujarat, have been issued notices for not complying with fire safety norms