Ripples from the Mumbai blaze were perhaps most felt by Hauz Khas Village, once called “a ticking time bomb without essential emergency and fire services” by the Delhi High Court, and home to bars that cater to almost every budget. Just like in Khan Market, HKV also relies on a clause that states that only eateries and bars with a seating capacity of over 50 need fire safety clearance and a fire exit. While fire chief G C Mishra said most eateries and pubs claim to have fewer than 50 seats, a senior official in the fire department said the establishments, in fact, cram far more people during peak hours.
To have fire clearance, an establishment needs fire exits with doors more than two metres wide, a clear pathway, smoke vents and tanks or pumps for emergency water requirement. Seven of the 10 pubs The Indian Express visited had an alternative exit route, but these were either very narrow or obstructed by dustbins and discarded furniture.
A manager at one such pub, where the fire exit was locked, said, “We did it to prevent noise pollution from the adjacent pub.” Another said that it was locked “last night, but the workers forgot to open it today”. HKV has 30 pubs, after around 12 were closed four months ago by the SDMC and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee for violating fire and environmental norms. Three were reopened after they got clearances.
President of the market association, Satinder Sarna, who also owns Lama Kitchen, said they have requested authorities to give them the infrastructure to install an underground tank in the area. “We have also asked the police to ensure that people are not given entry after 11 pm,” he said. K M Singh, who lives in the area, said, “In case of a blaze, fire tenders will struggle to reach even the main street; forget the eateries in the narrow lanes.”