From this year, Durga Puja committees will have to submit a written undertaking to the administration before Sashthi that their pandals are fireproof.
Dhalbhum SDO Chandan Kumar on Thursday issued a directive to all 311 licensed Puja committees in this connection.
Till last year, Puja organisers used to apply for mandatory clearance at the fire station unit several weeks before Durga Puja. After the pandals were constructed, fire station team used to inspect them before issuing clearances. The same procedure will be carried out this year but with the added feature of Puja committees giving in writing that their pandals are fireproof. If inspection reveals lapses in fire safety despite the written undertaking, the Puja committee can lose its licence to host the Puja next year.
“Puja committees will submit an undertaking that their pandals are fireproof and they meet the safety guidelines issued by an appropriate fire station officer in the city. We will ask the civil defence unit and the fire station officer to inspect major pandals and ensure fire safety norms are adhered to,” SDO Dhalbhum Chandan Kumar said.
Golmuri-based Jamshedpur fire station unit is distributing a list of fire safety norms to Durga Puja committees.
“So far, we’ve given the list of fire safety norms to over 50 Durga Puja committees and will give them to more Puja committees who approach us. We have submitted the list to Dhalbhum SDO so that Durga Puja committees take a copy and comply with the norms while constructing the pandals,” said Jamshedpur fire station officer Gopal Yadav.
Among the fire safety norms for pandals are its entrance width and height — no less than 12 feet and 14 feet, respectively. The total height of the pandal will not be more than 40 feet. The cloth for the pandal must be fire-resistant. Each pandal must have enough space for movement, adequate sand buckets, sufficient water (9 litres per square metre of floor area), ISI-marked fire extinguishers (two for each 1,000 sqft floor area), emergency service vehicles and insulated wiring by contractor with a government licence.
Yadav said earlier they could not conduct fire safety inspections of many pandals due to manpower shortage but this time help from civil defence personnel would make their task easier. “We have only 20 personnel in our unit and can’t inspect over 300 pandals. We confined ourselves to few major crowd-puller pandals. This year, after the SDO asked the civil defence unit to chip in, a large number of Puja pandals will be covered,” said Yadav.
General secretary Arun Kumar Singh of Jamshedpur Durga Puja Kendriya Samiti, which is coordinating Durga Puja and other major festivities in the city and outskirts, welcomed this step. “The importance given to fire safety norms in pandals will at least instil a sense of urgency among Puja committees to adhere to fire safety norms that earlier were ignored. Now, there is the threat of licence cancellation. No Puja committee wants that,” Singh added.
Jamshedpur has seen three major pandal fires in this millennium, at Dhaktidih in 2010, at Sonari in 2005 and at Tuiladungri in 2000. No casualties were reported, but people did suffer minor injuries.