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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Raze-rebuild for trade hub tinderboxes

The fire services department, in consultation with the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, has initiated a move to crack down on buildings in the Burrabazar area that are in danger of collapsing.

According to an estimate of the civic body, around 600 buildings in the city's business hub are 'risky and hazardous' and another 500 'partly risky'.

The owners will have to raze the 'risky and hazardous' buildings and start construction afresh. The ones that are 'partly risky' will have to be repaired thoroughly.

Besides, all temporary partitions ' made of plywood, timber, polythene sheets or other inflammable material ' will have to be removed.

Owners or tenants are free to erect partitions within the buildings, but those have to be brick-concrete structures. Temporary partitions of inflammable material will not be allowed.

Once the buildings are repaired or reconstructed, the owners or occupants will have to obtain a fresh fire licence on production of a clearance certificate from the civic body.

'We want to ensure that traders in Burrabazar do not compromise on safety, both of themselves and the public,' said fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee.

'We will soon issue an order fixing a deadline for the repairs. Traders and the owners of the risky buildings will be given three to six months to comply with it. If the order is ignored, the buildings will be demolished and the owners or occupants will have to bear the expenses,' he added.

The message from the government to the traders is clear, the minister pointed out: 'Either repair the buildings and take all safety measures, or keep the shutters down.'

Fire brigade officials and representatives of the civic body are now conducting spot surveys to prepare a list of 'risky' and 'partly risky' buildings.

According to fire brigade officials, at least 100 persons were injured in separate mishaps in which five buildings collapsed and 30 buildings caved in partially over the past year.

In almost every building, 50 to 100 shops were built on each floor by erecting plywood partitions.

Mayoral council member (building) Dipankar De said there are more than 600 risky buildings in the Burrabazar area. 'We have already issued notices to the owners of 100 buildings to vacate the premises and demolish the structures. If the fire services department backs our effort, the crackdown will be a success,' he added.

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