Unpreparedness to fight any fire tragedy isn’t the only reason that makes Dwarka markets unsafe for its visitors. The other big reasons are blatant encroachments of the corridors and open spaces and gross violation of cooking norms in markets areas.
Makeshift eateries and kiosks have mushroomed in the corridors, making it impossible for the visitors to move around. Many sweet shops or restaurants located on the first floor have also made a temporary kiosk in open areas where they carry out frying in big pans on gas burners.
The residents say these shops not only add to the chaos and filth in the area but are an open invitation for a major fire mishap. RK Gupta, a resident of Harmony Apartments in Sector 4, said, “Cooking in open areas is one of the biggest problems being faced by Sector 4 market. These shops have not only encroached upon the entire corridors but they are also flouting rules which prohibit cooking in shops in markets. They don’t have any provisions for fire extinguishers to fight any adversity.”
Last year an inspection of these shops operating in Sector 10 market was carried out by DDA, Municipal Corporation and DJB officials, in the supervision of then mayor of SDMC, Kamaljeet Sehrawat. They had advised that such shops be closed immediately but they are still operating.
According to the rules, cooking of any sort is not allowed at the ground floor. “No one is authorised to cook at ground level and certainly not in open areas and corridors. This can lead to a major disaster. Recently, a minor fire incident was reported at a Sector 10 eatery,” said a DDA official on the condition of anonymity.
The story is same across all the markets of Dwarka. The residents blamed the authorities for letting these illegal shops operate unabashedly despite the risks they pose.
The other big concern for the visitor to these markets is encroachments of walking areas, stairways and open spaces. Vendors who set up kiosks at any place and haphazardly parked vehicles leave no space for any vehicle to enter the market. In case of an emergency, shop owners feel that fire fighting vehicles can’t enter inside.
Ramphal Chowk market seems worst affected as far as encroachment is concerned. While on a visit to these markets, City Spidey found that the entry to roof or top floors of the markets were either locked or illegally occupied. In that condition one cannot go from one roof to another.
According to Gautam Kumar, a civil engineer, there should be an easy access to rooftops to allow evacuation of people in case of fire. “Rooftops should be left open and there should be an open passage from one roof to another. Absence of any of these is a serious violation of law which makes the entire structure unsafe in case of fire,” said Gautam.
There are a plenty of reasons that make markets in Dwarka a potential death trap but there are no efforts being made by the authority to handle the situation while they can.