The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has directed the Delhi Fire Services, the Delhi government and the municipal corporations and council in Delhi to examine all schools in the city and find out if they meet fire safety provisions. The authorities concerned have been asked to file a status report to the commission by March.
The commission has also asked the Directorate of Education to rectify a loophole that allowed schools — which shifted into new buildings — to avoid fire safety clearances if they existed before 2011.
“The Commission recommends to the Directorate of Education to rectify the loophole and issue explicit instructions regarding shifting of buildings of schools that the National Building Code 2005 must be applied on all schools, even in cases where the school has been in existence prior to 2011 shifts to any other building whether old or new,” the DCPCR order states.
In 2011, a circular by the Delhi government stipulated fire and safety provisions in school buildings.
“The spirit in which a law has been passed should be respected. If any school is shifting to a new building, built before 2011, they should still get the fire safety clearance as children should be safe,” said Anurag Kundu, member of DCPCR.
The DCPCR order mentions a Supreme Court order of 2009 on a PIL related to a fire at a school in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu.
“The fire started in the school’s kitchen while cooks were preparing mid-day meal for children. The fire in the school rose so high that the thatched roof of the classrooms caught fire and the blazing roof collapsed on the school children… The local people tried to douse the flames and rescue children but the school’s narrow and steep stairway made it difficult… As a result, little help could reach in time and 93 children were burnt to death… Therefore, the intent of the honourable Supreme Court judgment and the subsequent circular issued by the Directorate of Education is to protect all the schools and its students from any such future tragedies,” the DCPCR order states.
The Delhi High Court has also asked the Delhi government whether the Supreme Court orders on fire safety were being followed in spirit across schools in the city.
“The Delhi government has issued several reminders to schools to make sure they have the necessary clearances in place.
“In some cases, inspections have also been carried out. The inspection in all schools is to be carried out by March and we will file a compliance report thereafter,” said a government official.
There are over 2,400 recognised schools in the city. While many of the big names have fire safety clearances, there is no clarity on how many schools are flouting them.