The Khan Market Traders Association (KMTA) is demanding implementation of fire safety norms for the restaurants which occupy the first and second floors at the upscale market at the earliest.
The redevelopment of the market cannot be ignored any longer as there will be mass casualties in case of a fire, said traders.
The casualties will be no less in the restaurants which have no-objection certificates from the fire department as the staircases leading to the restaurants are narrow and no definite escape routes are in place, they said.
The Khan Market Welfare Association (KMWA), which represents the shops on the first floor, are at loggerheads with the KMTA over the redevelopment plan of the market.
The KMWA went to court stating that most of the restaurants had a seating capacity of less than 50 and did not need any no- objection certificates (NOCs) as per the fire safety norms.
But the body mostly representing shops on the ground floor differs.
“The staircases leading to the restaurants are so narrow that it is impossible for people to rush out in case of a fire. We want the issue to be sorted at the earliest and the fire escape routes to be in place at the earliest. Are the lives of 50 people not important?” said Sanjeev Mehra, president, KMTA.
In case of a disaster, the ground floor shops will also not be spared, Mehra said. “Customers and shop owners and their family members handling business will be wiped out if there is a fire in the market,” said Mehra.
The restaurants stretch their capacities beyond 50 during rush hours, especially on weekends, said traders.
The open spaces are also utilised as smoking areas. This further increases the number of people each restaurant is housing.
The New Delhi Municipal Council recently told the Delhi High Court that it will take serious action, including cancellation of licence if the restaurants were found to be flouting norms, like exceeding seating capacity beyond 50.
Earlier, a walkway connecting to a skyway that could be used as an escape route in case of a fire was proposed. “Even though commercial activity is increasing every day, there is no structural safety of the buildings,” said another trader.
Restaurants, meanwhile, argue that a middle path needs to be eventually worked out so that the civic body does not take a step like cancellation of licence.
“The restaurants will eventually need to coordinate and build common fire escape routes,” said a senior manager at Mamagoto.
“Currently, the matter is pending before the court. However, the audits should have been more intensive before the licences were given by the municipal body,” said a manager at Barcelos.
A manager at Town Hall, which has a seating capacity of 150, said the restaurant already has a no-objection certificate because of the enhanced seating capacity.