Capital’s leading wholesale hub Upper Bazaar is a tinderbox waiting to happen, thanks to narrow roads and the tangle of overhead wires, Thursday night’s garments shop blaze taught firemen.
State fire officer Sudhir Kumar Verma, speaking to this paper, minced no words when he said firefighting in the crowded market area was almost impossible under the present circumstances of narrow access roads made more cramped with parked vehicles, naked overhead electric wires and very little space between two buildings. To make matters worse, individual shopkeepers hardly had any firefighting arrangement to stem any blaze at the onset.
“God forbid, in case of a big blaze in the daytime (business hours), getting firemen and tenders to reach the spot would be a huge problem as the roads are too narrow,” he admitted. “On Thursday night, when fire broke out at the readymade garments shop and my firefighters went there, I realised the severity of the problem. Getting access to the affected shop was so difficult from all sides due to a four-storey residential-cum-commercial building around the shop. Thank god it was night. If it had been day, we would have faced more problems,” Verma said, referring to the crowds.
There are over 4,000 shops at Upper Bazaar. Many of these shops are partitioned into more cubicles. So it is difficult to estimate the number of shops at the wholesale hub. But Verma said hardly any shop owner could share anything about firefighting.
“I found that baring some small fire extinguishers for show, none of the shop owners had proper firefighting arran-gement. Inflammable items such as diesel is kept on the top of shops to run generators.”
Owner of Shree Sunder Vastralaya Sunil Sarawagi, whose brother’s shop was charred, admitted the area had developed in an unplanned manner.
“There were four or five fire extinguishers at my brother’s shop but we could not use them. If we had some proper arrangements to douse the fire, losses could have been minimised. This locality is really congested as it has developed and expanded in an unplanned manner over the years,” Sarawgi said.
Locality resident Kishore Verma said there was no one to take care of Upper Bazar. “It is the business hub of the capital yet nothing has been done to develop or modernise it. Unplanned parking of vehicles and construction work often create problems of accessibility. There is a web of naked overhead electric wires. Yes, there are sparks during storm,” Verma said.
President of Federation of Jharkhand of Chambers of Commerce of Industries Deepak Maroo promised steps to make the locality accessible. “We have asked civic authorities for parking space where staff working in different shops may park their vehicles safely. Once problem of parking is sorted out, accessibility will automatically improve,” he claimed. “We will sit the next week to discuss the issue. I was also present for four hours during fire on Thursday night and had firsthand experience of the problems,” Maroo said.
What about improving firefighting? Maroo said, “Yes, next week we will discuss the issue of firefighting. Each shop owner will be asked to take the help of the fire department for proper firefighting arrangements.”
RMC mayor Asha Lakra also promised “seriousness”. “The corporation is very seriously planning to develop the business hub. We will discuss the issue properly after elections. To make the roads free, we have planned parking space. Some space has been planned near Rangrez Gali, which is one of the most congested localities of Upper Bazaar.”