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Posted at: May 26, 2019, 7:22 AM; last updated: May 26, 2019, 11:00 AM (IST)OVER 400 IN UT

Wake up call for city coaching centres

Surat tragedy raises concerns on students’ safety

Naina Mishra

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 25

The heart wrenching fire tragedy at a coaching centre in Surat, Gujarat, which claimed life of at least 23 students, has raised concerns over lack of fire safety arrangements at coaching institutes in the city, which is a hub of such institutions.

Chandigarh Tribune today conducted a reality check of the coaching institutes, government offices and markets in the city to find out how fire-safe they are. A team of members of the Chandigarh Parents Association aided the reality check.

Over 400 coaching institutes are being run in Sectors 34, 35, 8, 15, 17 and 36 — a majority of these from SCOs and SCFs with a common entry and exit.

Even as the Fire and Emergency Department in March issued notices to 34 institutes for violation under the National Building Code giving them 15 days to remove the discrepancies, there is no change in the situation on the ground. 

Fire safety provisions are to be observed as per the National Building Code of India and the Delhi Fire Prevention and Fire Safety Act, 1986, as extended to the UT, Chandigarh. Chief Fire Officer Anil Garg did not respond to calls and messages. 

Sample this: A showroom houses at least three to four coaching institutes on each floor. In a small room on one of the floors, five classes are held with each having 50-60 students. The aisle between the classrooms is not wide enough for quick evacuation of students in case of fire incident.

The Fire and Emergency Department has also failed to check electricity meters installed near staircase of coaching centres. At many coaching centres, the main electricity box was not found to be covered and power cables dangled out of it. At several centres, the junction box was found right at the entrance point.

The fire hose reel equipment, which is connected to water supply and consists of a main turn on/off valve, was found defunct. 

While all other establishments have to obtain NOC from the Fire Department before starting the business, there is no such necessity in case of coaching institutes.

It’s same for offices, markets

Even government offices, primarily of Punjab, cry for attention. A visit to one of the offices revealed that none of the floors had fire extinguishers while hose reels were disconnected. Right opposite the BSNL office, power cables, which are supposed to be undergrounded, were entangled on a tree. Even balconies/verandahs of buildings were covered with iron grills, in violation of rules as these are used as escape routes during rescue/evacuation operation.

The city’s busiest markets like Shastri Market in Sector 22 and Sadar Bazaar in Sector 19 are crowded enough for a fire safety tender to reach the spot in case of fire mishap.

Moreover, there was no marking for fire tenders in parking lots. As per rules, the approach road to the building and spaces on its sides up to six metres in width have to be kept free of obstructions and shall be motorable.


Why basements?

Some coaching centres are being run from basement with common entry and exit. Sources in the Fire Department said it was the responsibility of the Estate Office to stop misuse of basements. As per rules, basements cannot be used for holding classes. The Estate Office can resume the building in case of violation. 


Major violations

  • Electricity junctions installed on walls of escape routes
  • Fire equipment like hose reel lying defunct
  • Only one exit and entry point for escaping the emergency
  • Detection devices like fire alarm missing

28 Panchkula centres raided, put on notice

  • In case of non-compliance, legal notice will be served on the institutes. The owners not adhering to bylaws may face jail for six months & penalty.
  • During checking in Sectors 4 to 12 A, 14 to 17, 20, 21, 25 and 26, hoses, reels and fire alarms were found missing. 
  • Over 8,000 students study at these coaching centres, most of them located in multi-storeyed showrooms or shops.

Previous fire incidents

  • April 2019: Grocery shop gutted in fire at Maloya
  • April 2019: Fire broke out at Prabha Electronics, a factory in Industrial Area, Phase 1
  • January 2019: Fire broke out at a confectionary shop in Sector 46
  • December 2018: Furniture and foam material worth over Rs 1 crore reduced to ashes at furniture market along road separating Sectors 53 and 54.
  • June 2018: Major fire broke out at in the basement of a toy shop in Sector 22
  • February 2018: Major fire at a photo mixing lab in Sector 22-C
  • February 2018: Massive fire broke out at Sawhney store in Sector 20

ERRING INSTITUTES

Winning Age Institute

Allen Career Institute

Modern Academy

Seema’s Institute

IBS Private Ltd

Rachna Institute

Arun Goel Physics Techniques

Vidya Mandir Classes

Chander Bansal Classes

Shri Keshav School of Competition

Indu Chemistry Classes

Ashoka Copy House

Sapra Classes

Best Chemistry Centre

Competition Zone

Akash Institute


We will hold a special fire safety drive for government schools, colleges and coaching centres. Action will be taken against violators and licences of coaching institutes cancelled in case of any violation. Manoj Singh Parida, UT Adviser

The Fire Department has been regularly carrying out surveys of buildings to check fire safety norms. Many notices have been issued to coaching centres. A fresh survey will be carried out soon. KK Yadav, MC Commissioner

The Fire Department has clearly turned a blind eye to coaching centres. We will take up this matter with the UT top brass. Chandigarh Parents Assn

(With inputs by Ramkrishan Upadhyay)

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