8273, Anaj Mandi — the five-storey building where an early morning blaze killed 43 labourers Sunday — was to be given a showcause notice in a few days by the North MCD, after it was identified as one of 2,800 units illegally operating within residential complexes in North Delhi.
Several lapses in construction of the building and a total absence of any kind of fire safety, including a no-objection certificate, have also been pointed out by officials.
North MCD commissioner Varsha Joshi said: “Our officials surveyed the building last week but part of it was found to be locked. A showcause notice is to be issued to every unit in the building. If the reply shows that the unit is permissible as a household unit, as per provisions of the Master Plan, it would be considered for granting permission; if not, it would be shut.”
A North MCD leader said while “2,800” is an official figure as per their records, the actual number “surpasses 10,000 units in the area”. He said at least 4,500 illegal units were identified in North Delhi and showcause notices issued to 3,500 units this year: “Of those, 1,300 units were vacated and 400 left voluntarily. This left 2,800 units, including the building where the fire took place.”
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North MCD standing committee head Jai Prakash said, “This building was found violating rules in our survey; we were going to send them a showcause notice. The corporation had set December 2019 as the deadline to close around 4,500 such industries found in the survey… they will be shut by December 31.” A senior official said many traders who have been given alternate plots in industrial areas continue to operate from residential areas.
A special investigation unit (SIU) team of the Crime Branch, which had earlier investigated the fire at Karol Bagh’s Hotel Arpit Palace that claimed 17 lives this February, Sunday inspected the Anaj Mandi building and found “several lapses in construction”. A senior officer said, “the owner illegally constructed the top two floors without lanter”.
The officer said that during inspection, local police personnel “asked the team of SIU not to stand in one area together as it is an unsteady floor”.
Meanwhile, Delhi Fire Services (DFS) director Atul Garg said the building did not have a fire NOC and that records show an application was never filed for it either.
“Had the building owner applied for an NOC, we would have rejected it as a commercial unit cannot exist in a residential area. It did not follow a single rule under the ‘Delhi Building Bye Law related to fire,’ which mentions the kind of exits, connectivity to main road, doorways. The major problems in the building were over-storage, flammable material, no escape route and no ventilation,” he said.
A senior DFS official said in the recent past, most such fire incidents have taken place in “unplanned areas, where residential complexes are being used for commercial purposes. There is an urgent need to shift these illegal units to industrial areas”.
Another DFS official alleged “connivance of various building agencies with owners of buildings… we do not have the manpower to conduct regular inspections”.