Days after a fire broke out in a PG at Mukherjee Nagar, leaving 35 lives in danger, the question arises: are the PGs following the normative procedure of establishing such an institution for living?

Following the massive fire breakout in a PG at Mukherjee Nagar, a senior municipal official was put to the task of conducting a survey to determine whether the PGs were following the correct procedure to be established. A door-to-door survey was conducted and revealed that 104 PG units have been earmarked. The buildings are operating in violation of building bylaws, the survey concluded.

The officials from civic bodies said that notices are being served to 104 PG units for alleged violations of laws. The notices have been issued to the owners, asking why the premises must not be sealed.

After the four-day survey concluded, the official remarked in conversation with Hindustan Times,

We have photographed these units. If a satisfactory answer is not provided to the show cause notice, it will be followed by a sealing drive.

It has been noted that the MCD is focusing on PG accommodations operating in buildings that are more than 9 metres tall and have more than 20 people staying in them. Hindustan Times noted that the higher authorities from MCD are focusing on these accommodations, particularly those that are more than 9 metres in height and have an occupancy of more than 20 people.

Interestingly, the fire broke out at the PG a day after a sealing drive for 20 coaching centres was conducted in the same area after a fire broke out in June.

The official further added,

According to the Master Plan of Delhi regulations and Unified Building Byelaws that came into effect after 2007, such units with more than 20 students and above 9m buildings cannot operate without a fire NOC. Only one unit was found operating with fire NOC issued by the Delhi Fire Services (DFS). We will also submit these findings in our action-taken report on the coaching centre fire safety case.

It is expected that the Delhi High Court shall hear the matter related to the fire safety for coaching centres and the consequent actions taken by the higher authorities of the civic body on October 10.

After the thorough investigation was completed, the MCD officials added that so far, most of the PG’s out of the 44 have been sealed since they are operating in the basement and mezzanine floors. Such activity is strictly prohibited in the basement area since it is a clear fire hazard. 24 out of these 44 units were coaching centres, while the rest were spaces like libraries and reading rooms. A second official associated with the drive commented,

We have also issued notices to units running on the first to the third floor and a hearing has been sought by them. We will have to wait for them to present their documents.

However, according to the Hindustan Times, the owners of such accommodations and coaching centres have shown their frustration as no clear regulations have been defined for them.

Coaching institutes were allowed to operate in commercial areas, mixed land areas, and residential areas by being included in ‘Other Activities’ Section 15.7 of the MPD 2021 subject to following the norms of ROW of road. The amendment regarding 20 people in one unit and the need for fire NOC was unjustly added in 2020 whereby coaching centres with 20 or more people were clubbed under the category of ‘educational building.

– Keshav Aggarwal, President, Educators’ Society, a union of coaching centres.

He further remarked that the clubbing had been done in a hurry, and the stringent regulations under the educational building were a consequence of the same.

But in such cases, there are too many grey areas, and the MCD needs to formulate fire safety policies. Indeed, such precautionary measures are crucial for the safety of an area, whether its residential or commercial in nature.

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Aanya Mehta
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