CRAWFORD MARKET, which dates back to the 1860s, was the first building to get electricity in India. However, the fire at the iconic wholesale market on early Sunday has brought to fore the issue of fire safety in public spaces and the need to upgrade old electrical systems.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officers have claimed short circuit to be one of the reasons for the fire.
Now, the electric supply in the area have been shut down and is likely to remain shut for at least two more days, said fire officials.
Phase-I of the redevelopment work is going on near the mechanical clock tower and the civic body has appointed conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah for the project.
“The fire highlights the urgent need to carry out a holistic upgradation of Crawford Market. The restoration work being carried out presently is not only about heritage restoration but also electric upgradation of the market, which is very important as it reduces possibilities of electrical short circuits. The first building to get electricity in India is in dire need of a comprehensive upgradation,” said Lambah.
The phase-I of the project initiated by the BMC, which began eight months back, has a three-year deadline and includes providing a proper fire fighting system including installation of sprinklers. “The tenders for this phase were floated after due approvals by the fire department and the basic clearances of exits and corridors were also decided keeping in mind fire safety aspects. There are around 600 stalls in the market that use different materials like plywood, laminate, plastic sheets, etc. The new design will ensure that uniform material with fire safety ratings and fire retardant paints are used for redeveloping the stalls,” said Lambah.
She added that the priority is to ensure the safety of shopkeepers and citizens who visit the market in large numbers.
Incidentally, after work around the clock tower would be completed, the area along DN Road wing was to be taken up. This area comprises mainly of fruit and vegetable shops besides other provisional stores selling perfumes and packaging material. “The idea is to create a hygienic market with fire safety measures and upgraded electrical and signage systems,” added Lambah.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, the usual hustle-bustle around the market complex was missing. Clothes, utensils, vegetables, etc which could be salvaged from the fire lay on the sides, even as other damaged goods were being cleared with the help of a crane. The few customers who entered the market complex were turned back by the police, while fire officers did a recce of the area to ascertain the extent of damages.
The electricity supply had been cut out and those shopkeepers whose shops had been saved from the fire complained that this would affect their business during the time they are likely to make the most profits.
“Diwali is just a few weeks away and this is the time we see the maximum surge in crowds. But cutting the electricity supply will change this,” said Bhavesh Dedhia, who owns a provisional store in the market.
Amrit Mhoprakar sat witha few textbooks next to him. This was all that could be retrieved from his shop Royal Spice. “I have been working here since 1965. The shop was given to me by my boss. I don’t know what will happen next,” he said, devastated.
According to shopkeepers, since fifty percent of the shops are rented out, no one really cares about the proper upkeep of the area.
Pandu Kosar, who works in one of the fruit shops, said that he managed to run out when the fire started. “But all three fruit shops owned by my boss have been gutted,” he said.
Md Hussain, along with other shopkeepers, whose shops were facing the road kept inquiring from BEST as to when the electricity supply would be restored, as Sundays are some of the main business days for them.
But no answer was forthcoming with many customers turning away disappointed.