‘Shops are tinderboxes, full of inflammable stuff’https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/shops-are-tinderboxes-full-of-inflammable-stuff/

‘Shops are tinderboxes, full of inflammable stuff’

Despite all these incidents, no fire safety measures have been put in place at the Furniture Market came up in Sector 53, Chandigarh.

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Firefighters try to douse the fire at the Furniture Market in Sector 53, Chandigarh. (Express photo by Jasbir Malhi)

MONDAY FIRE is the seventh such incident at the Furniture Market in the last 15 years. Most of these incidents have occurred at night or early in the morning. Despite all these incidents, no fire safety measures have been put in place at the market.

The Furniture Market came up in Sector 53 in 1990. Since then the market has been operating without authorisation. There are a total of 114 shops at the market. No decision has been taken on the demand of the shopkeepers to rehabilitate them.

Several fires have been reported at the market over the years. In 2014, five shops were gutted by a fire that broke out around 2 am. Two years before that, a fire broke out around 11 pm and destroyed 22 shops. Similarly, in 2009, a fire gutted eight shops.

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Furniture is built and stored in the shops here that are made of tin sheds. Inflammable material like plastic, cloth, thinner, polish, plywood and mattresses is kept here. No fire safety equipment like extinguishers is present in the shops.

Station Fire Officer of Sector 17 M L Sharma maintains that the shops are illegal, so no notice can be served on the shopkeepers for not following fire safety norms. “These shops are tinderboxes. All kinds of inflammable material is kept here. A small spark due to short circuit or a labourer throwing away a cigarette causes extensive damage,” he adds.

Pressing for their rehabilitation, the shopkeepers say that migrants who encroached upon land in the city were given houses by the administration, but they were not being offered anything even when they were willing to pay a reasonable price for it.

After the fire incidents in the previous years, assurances were given to the shopkeepers by the former UT administrators that they would be rehabilitated, but nothing has
been done.

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President of the Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee Pardeep Chhabra, who visited the market following the fire incident, said the shopkeepers should be rehabilitated. “The administration should allot land for rehabilitation of the shopkeepers of the Furniture Market in Sector 53,” he added.