Fire safety in Telangana: ‘one-time exemption’ misused

The Telangana Government is ready with its own version of Building Penalisation Scheme (BPS) to regularise unauthorised constructions, but perhaps, it has to first grapple with an earlier scam where quite a few buildings got fire safety clearance through fraudulent means. The route taken to provide ‘no objection certificates’ (NOCs) to certain buildings constructed in violation of fire safety guidelines is through the GO 154 issued in 2006 by the then A.P. Government where it had allowed already constructed buildings to be cleared for basic fire safety norms and regularised as a ‘one-time exemption’ following High Court orders.

In 2005, the High Court had issued notices to the State Government on steps proposed to deal with buildings constructed in violation of fire safety norms. When a survey was taken up, it was realised that there were 2,067 buildings in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts falling under the ‘danger’ zone. The Government and the fire services department after careful consideration decided to issue a special order giving a time frame of six months for the buildings concerned to take up fire-fighting measures and that if they did adhere to the guidelines, they could be cleared.

The fire department after serving them notices to take up the works, had also issued NOCs to such buildings that existed till 2006 after they had installed some basic fire-fighting equipment. But, much to the shock of senior officials, the department had continued to issue NOCs giving provisional clearance for buildings under the same GO much later too! Even more galling is that the department had issued 28 NOCs this year too! Notices have been issued to these buildings now. The issue has also been brought to the notice of the higher-ups in the Government for necessary action.