Three years...yet nothing has changed

Three years...yet nothing has changed

Carlton Towers

Three years...yet nothing has changed

Three years have passed since the blaze atop the Carlton Towers, which had nine people jump or suffocate to their death. More than 60 people were also injured.

Since then, the Carlton Towers Traders’ Association may have spent crores in their desperation to restart the commercial activity but the association has not been given a No Objection Certificate (NOC) by the Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services (KF&ES) Department because they are yet to fulfill the required measures.

 Om Prakash, DGP and DG, Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services, confirmed to Metrolife that an NOC has not been issued to Carlton Towers.

“All fire safety norms have been fulfilled, except that they haven’t shifted the electrical panel board which is the main thing. After our inspection, we found out that the fire-fighting measures such as hydrants, sprinklers, smoke detectors, clearance of corridors and removing of storage of diesel on the terrace have been cleared but we will not issue the NOC unless we are completely satisfied,” says Om Prakash.

He further explains that the electrical panel is the main control for all the electrical installations. “It is left to the association to decide whether they want to start operations by doing everything that we have asked them to. We will not allow them to operate unless all the fire safety measures are adhered to,” he adds. He points out that all the buildings in the City built before 1984, before the National Building Code came into existence, have to seek advice from the KF&ES Department on installing the appropriate fire-fighting measures. “But very few people have come forward. There are thousands of buildings in the City that have flouted the fire safety norms but with the existing staff it’s impossible to physically check each and every building,” reasons Om Prakash.

K R Niranjan, special commissioner, BBMP, too says that Carlton Towers has not been given an NOC.

“Most buildings in the City obtain the NOC and the occupancy certificate and then make deviations in the building. The Carlton Towers belongs to this category of buildings. It cannot start any commercial operations unless it is issued an NOC,” he says.

From outside, Carlton Towers doesn’t look very different. The easily breakable glass windows still remain, a new mesh has been put across some of the openings and there is no safety net around the building. It may be a commercially viable property but those who have been working in the various commercial establishments around the tower for the last five years say that a lot of people are reluctant to start operations there because of its gory past.

Clarence Xavier, business head of Nipun, feels that very few commercial establishments in the City want to invest in Carlton Towers. “There have been enquiries from business establishments in Delhi and Mumbai about Carlton Towers because they find the rents cheaper. But not many people are happy going back to Carlton,” says Clarence.

Sumanth V, systems administrator at The Writer’s Block, thinks there is a lot of superstition attached to the building. “I’ve had a lot of people tell me that it’s not good to start a new venture where there has been a death. I think rather than beautifying the building, enough precautions must be taken to secure the lives of those working in it,” he explains.

Sumit Khanna, technical head of ‘Beyond Carlton’, points out, “The NOC is a once in a lifetime document and it is clear that Carlton Towers has made several deviations to the buildings after obtaining an NOC and an occupancy certificate. It must take enough precautions to ensure that those working in the building are safe,” he says.

Life has to go on...

No matter how many years pass by, the loss of a loved one is irreplaceable and the scars of the tragedy still remain fresh for the kin who’ve lost their dear ones to the Carlton tragedy.

Most of the families have moved on. Some of those who lost their spouses have remarried and others have relocated to another city. When Metrolife contacted a few families, some were willing to talk, others simply refused to go back to the past.
   
Uday Vijayan, managing trustee, Beyond Carlton lost his son Akhil Uday. About rumours of restarting of Carlton Towers, Uday says, “We hear that Carlton Towers is going to open. It is up to the relevant authorities to ensure all safety norms have been met with before it starts functioning again.”

About his loss, he says, “Looking back, at a personal level, it has been challenging to lose a young son but the small steps with ‘Beyond Carlton’ in bringing the fire safety to the table is reassuring.” Uday further says, “It is a marathon we are in and expecting changes quickly will be fool hardy. The need is to work at various levels with a combination of advocacy, legislation and awareness.”

Shantha Kumar, who lost his wife Benzie Kumar, has chosen to move on and has no qualms Carlton Towers restarting operations. “I don’t think the authorities have done much to ensure that Carlton and the other high rises comply by the fire safety measures. Nothing substantial has been done. The laidback attitude continues.” 
  
Shantha says that it is only after he lost his wife did he realise the value of a life partner. “For me and my kids, life has taken a different path. I have more respect for women now than ever before. I am afraid and concerned about the many atrocities against women.”

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