The Telegraph
Thursday , February 28 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Markets play with flames
Narrow lanes, no fire safety

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 27: The tragic blaze at a Calcutta market today has exposed the lack of fire-fighting measures at markets here.

Congested lanes, narrow gates and dangerously hanging electrical wires have made Unit-I Daily Market a dangerous place. The barricaded entrance on two sides of Market Building (Unit-II) would also post a hurdle for entry of fire tenders.

Though the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) has conducted a number of eviction drives to create space on the various sides of the Unit I-Daily Market since 2011, these stretches remain crowded with shops. This market witnessed fire mishaps in 2003, 2004, 2011 and 2012. But there were no casualties in those accidents.

Urban management practitioner Piyush Ranjan Rout said: “The Unit-I Daily Market was originally planned as a temporary market where vendors would come and go. However, the daily ‘haat’ has become a market and there is no control over the proliferation of shops inside. The authorities should also to be blamed for the sorry state of affairs.”

Bijay Kumar Mishra, a local resident, feels scared every time he visits the market. “The polythene sheets overhead, narrow lanes stacked with goods and the eateries inside using LPG cylinders together pose a serious threat,” he said.

Deputy fire officer (Bhubaneswar circle) B.B. Das said: “There is no proper approach road to the market and this will hinder the free movement of a fire tender. Loose electrical connections lying all over the place and polythene used by the traders make for a virtual tinderbox.”

Das advised the traders to help the civic authorities to ensure enough space on the approach roads so that fire tenders could pass through. “There should be proper inspection of electrical installations in the market and water dispensing systems should also be installed at various strategic locations,” he said.

Secretary of Unit-I Daily Market Traders’ Association Gayadhar Swain admitted that the market was ill-equipped to fight a fire. However, he said the traders’ body had installed seven water tanks at various vantage points to fight fire on their own and are also paying a bill of Rs 18,000 a month for this. There is also a bore well inside the market to supply water to the tanks.

“Though the BMC authorities have said they would renovate the market complex with adequate parking and fire-fighting measures, it is yet to happen,” he said.

“We are going to construct a multi-storey market complex in the place. For that, many nearby government quarters have to be demolished. If the traders can come forward and co-operate, the market can have a good infrastructure including adequate fire fighting measures,” BMC deputy municipal commissioner Krushna Prasad Pati told The Telegraph.

Pati said immediate action would be taken against eateries inside the market using LPG cylinders.

Rules under fire

Rules under the Odisha Fire Service Act, 1993, are yet to be framed. The government has been reviewing the norms suggested by the fire fighting wing of the home department for two decades now.

These rules will specify fire safety norms and empower fire service authorities to act against violators.

“Fire officials cannot technically conduct checks to detect faulty mechanism or defunct equipment and enforce corrective measures. We are simply powerless,’’ said a senior fire safety officer.