Posh Delhi markets sitting on tinderbox
With inadequate exit routes in case of emergency, cramped spaces in the Restaurants and narrow lanes alongside, these markets are grossly unprepared to fight any fire tragedy.
According to Delhi Fire Services, only four restobars in each of the two markets have obtained the fire NOC (no-objection certificate). Officials said, to dodge the clearance, bar owners have reduced the seating capacity to less than 50. However, on any given day the footfall at these nightclubs is close to a 100 or even higher. According to rules, any restobar that seats less than 50 people does not require a fire NOC.
"Khan Market has 34 restobars while Hauz Khas Village has 23. Of the total 57 outlets, only eight are equipped for firefighting," said chief fire officer Vipin Kental.
Officials from the department said the entry to Hauz Khas Village is so narrow that a fire tender cannot take a U-turn after getting inside the market. The only way to come out is to drive in reverse. Similarly, the middle lane of Khan Market has little space for fire tenders to make their way in case of a mishap. Loosely hung electric wires, no emergency exits and unauthorised parking make the situation even more precarious.
In both these markets the restobars are located on the first and second floors and none of them have adequate emergency exit routes, officials pointed out. According to safety parameters, the staircase should be at least 1.5 metres wide, but in reality they are just about a metre wide.
"Width of the staircase, firefighting equipment and seating arrangements are checked before issuing fire NOC but these parameters are missing in most of these outlets," Kental said.
"These restobars are blatantly flouting fire safety norms by claiming that their seating capacity is less than 50 and therefore, they don't need fire NOC. The situation is similar in Hauz Khas and Khan Market. Four bars each in these markets have obtained an NOC."
However, bar owners in these markets cited a pending court case in their defence.
Saransh Mehan, senior manager of Punjab Grill at Khan Market, said, "We have obtained fire NOC after constructing a staircase towards the rear of our premises despite having a capacity of 48 guests in our premises. Safety and security of the visitors is definitely our key concern."
Mail Today also visited other restobars and found the safety parameters missing. An employee of a popular restaurant in Khan Market, requesting anonymity said, at least 60 to 70 guests are present in the premises at any time and the number even goes up to 100 during the evening hours. He added that apart from visitors, at least 30 to 35 employees of the restaurant are also present there, taking the number to 130.
A manager of a restobar in Hauz Khas Village said, "We have 12 tables inside the premises with each having a capacity of four to five people. Sometimes we have to adjust six to seven chairs according to the number of customers. Besides, we also have nearly 30 employees to look after guests." He, however, admitted that the restobar had just one narrow entry and exit point but said the matter would be decided only by the court.
The Delhi High Court last year termed Khan Market and Hauz Khas Village as 'ticking time bombs' and 'fire traps'. The layout of Khan Market is such that retail shops are situated mostly on the ground floor and they have not allowed owners to construct additional stairs in front of their outlets.