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Criminal flouting of fire-safety rules

Criminal flouting of fire-safety rules

The National Building Code has laid down regulations and there are separate fire-safety rules. Guidelines are periodically issued on how to prevent and handle outbreaks of fire. But fires keep happening...

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Last Updated : 28 May 2024, 21:35 IST
Last Updated : 28 May 2024, 21:35 IST
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The horrifying tragedies at two places in two days — the death of nine children and 28 adults in a Rajkot gaming and recreational set-up and of six new-born children in a private hospital in Delhi — are the results of the worst kind of criminal negligence and lack of concern for safety at institutional, official and individual levels in the country. Both are man-made disasters that happened because basic safety measures were not taken by those who ran the institutions. Those who were responsible for enforcing rules and regulations also failed in their duty. The disaster was waiting to happen in both cases. The Rajkot gaming zone was operating from a building which was not suitable for it. There was no fire-safety clearance and the centre did not have any fire-fighting equipment. There was no check on the number of visitors. Every law was violated by the Delhi hospital, too. It also did not have fire-safety clearance, nor did it have fire extinguishers. It did not even have qualified doctors. Its licence had expired two months ago. It had accommodated more patients than it was allowed to even when it had a licence, and it had hazardous oxygen cylinders stored illegally on its premises. 

The incidents have triggered some belated action by the authorities. The owners of the gaming unit and the hospital and some of their associates have been arrested.

The Gujarat High Court has taken suo motu cognisance of the Rajkot incident and asked the state government and other municipalities to submit a report on the functioning of gaming centres. There are other such centres which have been running without permission. Orders have been issued to inspect all of them and close down those that had no licences. A Delhi government investigation into the cause of the hospital fire is underway. Special attention should have been paid to all aspects of safety in the hospital because it was catering to small babies. 

The government and municipal officials who did not enforce the rules and regulations and fire safety norms are equally culpable. Investigations and reports after such mishaps are soon forgotten and those responsible for the mishaps go scot-free. The situation is the same all over the country. Building rules are violated, mandatory licences and permits are not taken, or are obtained by bribing officials, and officials don’t conduct inspections as they are supposed to. Fire-safety gets the least consideration. Offices, hospitals, shops, factories and restaurants are all vulnerable to fire accidents. The National Building Code has laid down regulations and there are separate fire-safety rules. Guidelines are periodically issued on how to prevent and handle outbreaks of fire. But fires keep happening and people perish, mostly because of negligence and criminal flouting of rules. 

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