A spark can cause a tragedy!

Apathy continues

A spark can cause a tragedy!

It took a fire in Russell Market to get the BBMP officials to inspect the place and spot shortfalls. But looks like they haven’t gone beyond Russell Market, for most of the other markets in the City are as vulnerable and waiting to go up in flames with one spark. Sadly, there’s no mandatory measure in the Fire and Emergency Services Department rulebook that makes fire safety measures in low-rise buildings compulsory. Only those buildings above 15 metres come under its purview. What happens to markets or popular low-rise shopping complexes that have thousands of people visiting them everyday? Neither the fire safety officials nor the BBMP has an answer.   

Malleswaram Flower Market

The 55-year-old Malleswaram Flower Market on Sampige Road is spread over two and half acres land. Fruits, flowers and all materials required for a ‘puja’ are sold here. There’s a proposal from the BBMP to demolish the existing market and construct in its place a multi-storied complex. The sellers, most of who, have been there for the last 30 odd years have filed a case against the BBMP demanding that the old market place be retained. There is no concrete structure for a roof; plastic and asbestos sheets are used as makeshift roof tops which are a potential fire hazards. There are no fire extinguishers, smoke detectors or water sprinklers. 

No. of stalls: Over 100

Persisting problems

* A few of the shops have illegally drawn electricity.
* No drinking water.
* No proper toilets.
* Leakage from roofs

Fire Hazards

* Crammed shops in every nook and corner.
* Plastic rooftops.
* Insufficient space for fire tenders to move around.

KR Market

Krishna Raja Market area or the K R Market is close to a century old. The market is popular for its flowers, fruits, puja items and Indian spices. The meat stalls are there in a separate enclosure. In addition to shops that are housed in a four-storied structure, there are vendors on either side of the aisles, leading to the main market place. There was a fire four months ago where seven shops were gutted but the BBMP has done nothing to ensure that a similar fire mishap doesn’t recur. The place is littered with waste materials, papers, cartons and some people even relieve themselves in the market making it unhygienic and prone to all sorts of infections.

No. of stalls: Wayside vendors (300) and over 1,000 stalls. 

Persisting problems

* No space between shops
* No drinking water
* No proper toilets
* No concrete roof structure, only plastic sheets
* Old wiring system

Fire Hazards

* No space for fire tenders.
* Basement is dump yard for haystack, cartons and waste paper.
* Haphazard parking within the market.

Chickpet

Chickpet rakes in more moolah than the Bangalore Central Business District. And this area belongs to the old Bangalore and has buildings as old as 40 years. The Behru Complex, a 27-ye­ar-old structure alone ho­uses 70 shops in addition to Hindu and Jain temples. Th­ere are 15,000 textiles sho­ps, 10,000 jewellery shops and more than 5,000 shops that sell sweets, spices and other items. Most structures exceed 15 metres and none of them have complied with the building bye-laws. The pl­ace is popular for its textiles and jewellery. None of the buildings have fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and water sprinklers. Most of the buildings have a narrow stairway and no proper fire exits.

No. of shops: 30,000

Persisting problems

* Insufficient drinking water
* No toilets
* People litter the place
* No regular garbage collection
* Littered streets

Fire Hazards

* Narrow roads will make it impossible for fire tenders to enter.
* Illegal drawing of electricity.
* Haphazard parking make roads narrower.

Gandhi Bazaar Market

This 60-year-old bazaar operates more on the streets than from the little makeshift shaft that the people call ‘market’. Recently, the BBMP on its overnight cleanliness drive, evicted more than 100 carts and destroyed makeshift shops. Here too, people have left their safety in the hands of god. The vendors who are located outside seem far safer than those who have moved inside the market.
No. of Stalls: No official record is there on the number of stalls as most vendors run their shops on the streets. The little shaft barely houses 25 shops.

Persisting problems

* Lack of hygiene inside the godown. The market is damp and rodents feast on the products.
*  No parking space
* Need for a bigger market to accommodate all these stalls.

Fire Hazards

* Most of the shops are made of wood and have thatched roof.
* Absence of electricity has led them to pull in wires from outside which can be seen all over the place.
* Gunny bags, plastic sheets and wooden boxes are thrown all over the place.
* The entire market has only one entry and exit point.

Johnson market

Johnson Market in Richmond Town is a gloomy and depressing place, in absence of any real activity, which it used to have decades ago. Built in 1964, the market runs in a dark tunnel sort of a building. While the front portion of the market is filled with grocery shops, inside one can find meat and vegetable stalls. Very poorly lit, the place attracts very few customers now, but some of the vendors say that in the mornings and during the weekends, the business is little better. The vendors here feel that their safety is in God’s hand.
No. of stalls: 60 shops are located inside the market which include 10 provision stores, 20 vegetable shops and the remaining sell meat.

Persisting problems:

* Hygiene is the biggest issue. Most of the stalls have fungus growing on the walls, water seeps through the walls making the place damp and flies are all over the place.  
* Lack of parking space.
* Absence of power supply
* The market hasn’t been painted for more than a decade.

Fire Hazards

* No fire extinguishers in shops.
* The market, spread over one acre, has only two exit points.
*  As there is no provision for electricity, most vendors have pulled in wires and put up bulbs on their own.
* Inflammable materials like wood and gunny bags are thrown all over the place.

Jayanagar 4th block Shopping complex

Built in 1975, Jayanagar Shopping Complex had a devastating fire in 2008, where close to 40 shops were gutted. The incident is still fresh in the minds of the shopkeepers and the complex is far more prepared to cope with incidents of fire. After the recent fire the authorities in the complex have ensured there is a big fire-fighting equipment installed beneath, with fire hoses all over the place. The wiring has been done externally. Water pipes with sprinklers have been installed all thro­ugh the market.

No. of stalls: The complex has a total of 277 shops out of which 93 are fruits and vegetables, 5 meat stalls, 1 cold storage while remaining are commercial stalls.

Persisting problems

*  Hawkers have encroached into all the lung spaces in and around the market.
* The entire market has only one public toilet.
* Lack of parking space. Most visitors and shopowners end up parking in the residential areas and walk to the market.
* There is more demand for fire safety measures and awareness.
* Lack of drinking water.

Fire Hazards

* Except for one or two shops, most vendors don’t have and are not aware of a fire extinguisher.
* Though the wiring has been done externally, the wire boxes are on top of the sewage tank making it more prone to fire.
* Fire prone materials like plastic and nylon are used by vendors to cover their stalls.
* All exit points and escape routes are crowded with hawkers.

Official speak

“There is no provision in the Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services rule book that mandates fire safety measures for low rise buildings. But these building owners must individually take all fire safety precautions like fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and water sprinklers. We didn’t think of this at all but now we will have  to write to the government to include low rises buildings as well in the safety purview.” When asked how fire tenders enter narrow streets, Shivakumar said, “we have motorbike mounted fire equipment to enter these streets but I am not sure of how many such bikes we have.”

N Shivakumar, additional director general, Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services (KF&ES) 

“How can we plan anything when we have financial constraints. And we are perpetually short-staffed which makes it impossible to implement anything new. We will soon inspect all the markets to ensure that another Russell Market doesn’t repeat.” 

Senior official with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike who didn’t want to be quoted



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