Kamala Mills fire: How safe are Delhi eateries?

Kamala Mills fire: How safe are Delhi eateries?
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New Delhi [India]: After the massive fire in Mumbai’s Kamala Mills Compound, the Delhi Fire Services on Saturday confirmed that 400 eateries in the national capital have the fire safety licenses.

In an exclusive interview, GC Mishra, Director, Delhi Fire Services, on Saturday told ANI, “Under the National Building Code of India, only restaurants having 50 or above seats are under legal obligation to obtain no objection certificate (NOC) from the fire department.”

“We were referred several cases from different buildings sanctioning and licensing authorities, out of which we have granted fire safety certificates to 400 eateries in Delhi,” Mishra said.

He said that there are, however, many restaurants in Delhi’s congested areas which have escaped the requirements of the National Building Code of India.

“There are restaurants in Delhi, especially in congested localities like Hauz Khas, Khan Market, Rajouri Garden and Greater Kailash. These are the areas where numbers of restaurants have come up which sought licenses for 48 seats, means they are not under the obligation of having fire safety certificate from the fire department. And, by doing so they also escape the requirements as stipulated in the National Building Code of India,” Mishra said.

The Delhi Fire Services informed that if such restaurants do not have proper fire protection equipment than the “legal status is that since they are not obliged (to have fire NOC), they are not at the default”.

He said in case of fire in the restaurant in such congested places, the biggest challenge for the fire department is to have access to the area.

“The only issue that remains is the access to the area where these restaurants have been allowed by different licensing authorities. The roads are so narrow in some of the areas that fire brigades can’t get into the area,” Mishra said.

He said a public interest litigation (PIL) in this regard is before the Delhi High Court, adding that he hoped a decision will be taken in this connection on the hearing on January 12.

When asked whether new norms would be made for eateries having less than 50 seats, he said this issue is under the consideration of the government.

“This is under the consideration of the government. The issue was raised a year back. The efforts were made to bring down the embargo of 50 seats, but it faced many issues,” Mishra said.

Giving the details of problems, he said if the limit of seats for fire safety is reduced below 50 then it would be very difficult for the small restaurants.

“If the number of seats is reduced to below 50 then it also includes the restaurants which have 10 or 20 seats. And, enforcing a requirement of forcing two exits of two meters width will require more space that they have for the dining area,” Mishra said.

The top fire officer, however, hoped for a new framework to deal with the issue.

“This nitty-gritty is being resolved and we are likely to come up with a framework for the existing restaurants which were licensed prior to the new statutory provisions,” Mishra said.

The Kamala Mills Compound is a refurbished industrial compound, housing swanky restaurants, other commercial establishments and several media outlets.

The fire on Friday claimed the lives of 14 people and injured many. (ANI)