A day after a major fire gutted 26 shops and damaged goods worth crores at the furniture market in Sector 53 here, Chandigarh fire department started a probe on Wednesday, even as none of the affected shopkeepers came forward to lodge a complaint. According to a senior fire official and the shopkeepers, this is ninth such incident at the place since 1999. On Wednesday, nine shopkeepers out of the 26, however, approached their respective insurance firms to get their claims. A team of two insurance surveyors also visited the market.
The market has been functioning here without any requisite permission since 1984. In 1992, Furniture Market Association-53 got a stay from the Punjab and Haryana High Court against a Union Territory administration’s move to evacuate them. Anil Garg, UT Chief Fire Officer, said it is a matter of concern. “We are probing it from all aspects. Either it was an accident or someone lit the fire deliberately. So far, we have ruled out the possibility of short circuit because there is no electricity supply in this furniture market after 9 pm,” he said, adding as per his information, it is the ninth time a fire broke out at this furniture market.
A team of fire department recorded the names of all the affected shop owners, along with their insurance firms. Interestingly, no shopkeeper, including even those who incurred huge losses in the fire incident, came forward to lodge any police complaint. Satish Kumar, president of New Furniture Market Association, Sector 53, asked, “Against whom should we file a police complaint?” “Nobody was present in the market when the fire broke out. Even CCTV cameras, along with DVD players, were gutted,” he said.
Kumar too added it is the ninth fire incident in this furniture market. Karam Chand, owner of a furniture shop, which was gutted, said there was no point in filing a police complaint in this regard. “We don’t suspect anyone. It was an accident.” Similarly, another shopkeeper Naresh Kumar said none of them were planning to lodge any police complaint. “We can not get back anything by filing a police complaint.”
A team from Sector 39 police station, headed by Inspector Maninder Singh, visited the furniture market, which has 114 shops, but shopkeepers did not lodge any complaint. A senior police officer said shopkeepers recorded their statements stating they were at their homes when they received the information about the fire. “No one demands any probe in this regard.”
The fire was reported by a passerby, Lovepreet Singh of Zirakpur, who informed Sector 17 fire station at 10.05 pm. Singh said he was returning from the house of his maternal aunt in Sector 41 when he noticed the huge blaze and called the fire brigade. “Fire tenders took 13 minutes to reach the spot.”
Two surveyors Pankaj Kumar and Balwinder Singh confirmed till now, seven shopkeepers approached insurance firms. “We have started our procedures. There are a few shopkeepers out of the 26 who did not renew their expired insurance policies. The seven shopkeepers, who approached us, have insurance covers of Rs 5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh,” said a surveyor, adding they have taken photographs of all the gutted shops and materials.