It has triggered a political row with Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleging a conspiracy by the Centre behind the fire.
New Delhi: Despite safety audit, the fire incidents in Delhi’s high-profile buildings—Shastri Bhawan, North Block, South Block and Nirman Bhawan—that house the offices of prominent ministries of the Union government—has raised serious questions on the fire safety audit and certification process itself.
Including the fire that broke out at the Shastri Bhawan last week, the building has witnessed almost 10 major fire incidents in less than a decade. Under the Delhi Fire Service (DFS) rules, certificate renewal is mandatory for all buildings. A fire safety clearance is valid for five years for residential buildings and three years for non-residential ones. During certificate renewal, officials visit the buildings and conduct a safety audit which includes inspection of the fire safety measures installed in the buildings.
On the condition of anonymity, a senior official employed at the Shastri Bhawan building told The Sunday Guardian “The Shastri Bahwan building has been going through the routine fire certification process and safety audit. It has employed a full-time secretary level officer to look into the fire safety of the building on a daily basis, but despite all this preparedness, fire incidents at Shastri Bhawan have become usual.”
Despite repeated requests sent by this reporter, Atul Garg, Chief Fire Officer at the Delhi Fire Service, chose not to respond on the issue. According to sources, over 10 incidents of major fire have been reported so far in recent years in Shastri Bhawan. Since 2010, Shastri Bhawan, which is mostly in news due to fire among all the government buildings in the New Delhi area, has reported most of the fire incidents in the recent past.
Ganpat Vishwas of Delhi College of Fire Safety told The Sunday Guardian. “Despite the fire safety certification process in place, the Shastri Bhawan has witnessed many major incidents of fire and this certainly points at loopholes in the safety audit process of the DFS. Fire incidents at Shastri Bhawan, in particular, have become a regular event now. The DFS must re-check its fire safety audit process.”
“Fire can erupt anywhere but with technology and expertise, we can avert the repetition of fire incidents as well as casualties involved in them. But for the building in question (Shastri Bhawan), the repetition of fire incidents is shocking and a private party must be involved for the fire audit,” Vishwas added.
The fire incident at Shastri Bhawan in the midst of Lok Sabha elections has triggered a political row with Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleging a conspiracy by the Centre behind the fire. However, a similar fire incident had occurred at Shastri Bhawan after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, too, and the Opposition had raised questions on the then UPA government too.