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Delhi continues to sit on ‘fire' as nobody is bothered


New Delhi, Feb 12: Death of 17 persons in a hotel fire incident in Delhi has once again highlighted how the national capital continues to sit on fire, thanks to the nexus between businessmen, government officials and politicians.

Hotel Arpit Palace in Karol Bagh

A fire broke out in Hotel Arpit Palace in Karol Bagh area of Delhi in the wee hours of Tuesday. When the fire was brought under control around 7 am, it had claimed 17 lives, including three Myanmar nationals and two Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited officials.

The mobile footage captured by some eyewitnesses tells heart-wrenching scenes, like how a person was dangling from the terrace and then jumping off to death and how a woman and a child were killed when they jumped off the fifth floor to escape the fire.

Media carries a commoner's clean-chit!

Even before any inquiry, or any high-ranking government official or police gave any statement regarding the unfortunate incident, a commoner went on to 'disclose' cause of the fire and virtually gave a clean-chit to the hotel.

[Delhi: 17 killed in fire at Hotel Arpit Palace in Karol Bagh; 2 jumped off the building]

At 9: 31 am on Tuesday, News Agency ANI tweeted Delhi Hotel Association Vice-President Balan Mani as saying that "It was due to a fire in the ducts, and as a result, it spread to the hotel rooms... All (safety) norms were followed here. A license is issued only after inspection... Mishappenings can occur in a house as well."

However, according to some media reports, the kitchen on the terrace of Hotel Arpit Palace caught fire leading to the tragedy.

Action Taken So Far:

However, contrary to Delhi Hotel Association's Mani's clean-chit, reports have emerged that everything was not okay in Hotel Arpit Palace.

Delhi Urban Development Minister Satyendra Jain visited the accident site and inspected the area.

Later, he tweeted: "Fire in Karol Bagh hotel. 17 causalities 2 injured. Magistrate enquiry ordered. Visible violations of building bye laws, building constructed 6 stories including one temporary floor instead of permissible 4 floors. Ordered fire inspection of buildings in the area."

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who visited the location, said a magisterial inquiry had been ordered that will also look into violations by other hotels in the area.

However, neither Jain nor Kejriwal clarified whether they came to know about the violations in Karol Bagh today or were they already aware of it.

North Delhi Municipal Corporation has also ordered a probe into the fire tragedy and sought the report within three days.

Karol Bagh falls under North Delhi Municipal Corporation.

Delhi Police has registered a case under culpable sections of homicide, not amounting to murder.

Blame Game:

North Delhi Municipal Corporation mayor has blamed fire department of Delhi government of giving No Objection Certificate (NOC) to Arpit Palace Hotel.

He, however did not say anything about violation of building bye-laws as claimed by Delhi Minister Satyendra Jain

Ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also swung into skin saving action.

Spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj tweeted: "Will Delhi ever see a Commissioner of MCD or Chief of fire being suspended for such huge loss of innocent human lives. What a rotten system of Governance where all powers rest with LG who has zero accountability."

He, however, forgot that Fire Department comes under Delhi government.

Former Delhi Chief Minister and incumbent Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee President Sheila Dikshit said, "They should form a committee and look into the issue. If they form a committee, people responsible for the incident will be punished."

She ruled Delhi for 15 years, she knows very well how different nexuses thrive in the national capital.

The Reality:

Since majority of Delhi's restaurants, banquet halls, hospitals, old cinema halls and other commercial buildings don't have fire safety norms in place, Delhi seems to be sitting on fire as nobody is bothered.

'Nobody' includes: Delhiites, businessmen, fire department officials, other concerned government officials, and politicians.

Common Delhiites are not concerned because they are ignorant about the enforced fire safety rules & regulations and building bye laws in the national capital. Because of the ignorance, they don't understand how their lives have been put at risk by the rest in the 'nobody club', who know 'ways and means' to bypass the applicable rules and regulations for their 'common benefit'.

Delhi Fire Department, which comes under Delhi government, is very much aware of the fact that how residential and commercial buildings in Delhi flout fire safety norms.

Under the National Building Code of India, only restaurants having 50 or above seats are under legal obligation to obtain no objection certificate (NOC) from the fire department.

Every government official and politician knows that there are thousands of restaurants, hotels, and banquet halls in Delhi that have declared themselves under 50-seat establishment but as per requirement they accommodate more than 50 guests.

The fact of the matter is that only around 20% restaurants and hotels in Delhi have the NOC from Fire Department.

As the North Delhi Municipal Corporation Mayor has questioned the fire safety NOC to Arpit Palace Hotel, it is a matter of investigation that out of these 20% how many restaurants and hotels actually fulfill the fire safety requirements in letter and spirit under National Building Code of India.

The functions of Municipal Corporation of Delhi are same as those of other corporation across the country, but many MCD works in Delhi overlap with Delhi Government.

Therefore, it is very easy for the officials and politicians to confuse the common people of Delhi over any matter. Incumbent Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal or his predecessors have used this 'confusing tactics' as and when required.

For example, the MCD runs dispensaries and some hospitals, while the Delhi government runs bigger and more specialised hospitals.

In the collection of taxes, the roles of MCD and Delhi government differ - while MCD collect toll tax at the borders, advertisement revenue and property tax, the Delhi government collects excise duty, service tax and value added tax on the services and commodities sold.

The enquiry ordered by North Delhi Municipal Corporation establishes the responsibility of the corporation officials and area corporator in the Arpit Palace Hotel fire tragedy.

The epitome: As it is the case in other parts of the country, flouting of government rules and regulations in Delhi are going on by greasing the palms of concerned government officials and politicians.

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