Nearly all buildings in Bahadur Shah Zafar (BSZ) Marg area have been declared fire traps by the Delhi Fire Service (DFS). The area is a tinderbox, claim DFS officers. In a shocking lapse, it has come to light that many of these buildings have not upgraded their fire safety systems for several years. Among the buildings which have not been cleared by DFS are Manak Bhawan that houses Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), University Grants Commission (UGC), Indraprastha General Post Office building, and Herald House, which is visited by hundreds of passport seekers daily.
Atul Garg, Chief of the Delhi Fire Service, said that Gulab Bhawan and National Herald House have been served notices. Pratap Bhawan was last granted the fire safety NOC in 1994. Meanwhile, the Patriot House — which was till recently known as Link House — did not apply for the NOC and remains highly unsafe, said Garg. It is most probably because this building has no recognised ownership; and its current custodians are evidently disinterested in maintaining it according to the existing bylaws. Talking about the area, which houses a large number of media houses, facing the danger of getting burnt, a senior DFS official said, “The area is prone to fire due to unplanned construction and narrow roads. Although nearly 32 fire tenders were pressed into service on the day when a massive fire engulfed the building of the Times of India, it was a mammoth task to douse the flames.”
Manak Bhawan and Milap Bhawan have not got new fire NOCs after 2003. Meanwhile buildings such as UGC, National Herald House and Indian Express have no NOC. These buildings have been served notices about the shortcomings such as non-functional fire kit, lack of sufficient fire exits and other such measures. In fact, the UGC building had received a shortcoming statement in July 2004, and Gulab Bhawan in February 2011. In the latest fire which engulfed the Times of India building, the fire could have easily spread to adjoining buildings due its proximity to them. Regarding the functionality of the building, the fire official said, “We have written to the North Municipal Corporation of Delhi to re-examine the buildings in the area.”