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Safety blanket for busy areas
- 20-point strategy ahead to check fires, collapse of old buildings

The state government has started formulating a strategy and a new set of rules for the old buildings in congested areas like Burrabazar, Shyambazar and Gariahat, to prevent any major fire and house collapse.

The decision follows a 20-point recommendation submitted by a six-member expert committee, formed to probe the devastating fire at the hosiery market in Burrabazar’s MG Road in December last year. The committee has also forwarded seven suggestions to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

The committee, chaired by S.N. Sarkar, additional commissioner of police, submitted its report to the government last week. The recommendations include provision of a law which will make it mandatory for owners or occupiers in the congested areas to get the structural condition of the buildings checked by a qualified structural engineer after certain intervals. The CMC will also conduct a regular check on the structural condition of the buildings and their electrical installations.

Some of the other recommendations are :

- Owners and occupiers of old and dilapidated buildings, especially in Burrabazar, must get their structures rebuilt, leaving the mandatory open space and abiding by fire services norms

- Teams, comprising representatives of the state government and CMC, must be formed to inspect the old and dilapidated buildings at regular intervals. It will be mandatory for the owners to implement the suggestions given by the teams and defaulters should be penalised

- There should be proper in-house security arrangements to prevent intentional damage

- Fire-safety measures, like an alarm system, ventilation, escape routes and sources of water should be incorporated in the building plans and be reviewed at the time of renewal of trade licences. Electrical installations in markets must be checked regularly by a competent authority

- Additions and alterations by occupiers of old buildings must be discouraged by the CMC and action taken against those flouting the ban. All unauthorised construction must be torn down

- Market complexes in Burrabazar must have an underground or overhead water reservoir of at least one lakh-litre capacity

- The CMC must repair all the fire hydrants in Burrabazar

- Storage of inflammable goods and setting up a canteen or tea-stall using a gas stove should be strictly banned

Fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee said his department, along with the municipal affairs department, will finalise the new rules for congested areas within a month.

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