Updated May 27th, 2024 at 19:22 IST

Glaring Lapses — Common Thread in Twin Fire Tragedies in Rajkot and Delhi

The incompetence and malpractice in Rajkot and Delhi fire cost 42 lives with families left to deal with the tragic losses. Will the culprits be punished?

Reported by: Surabhi Shaurya
Edited by: Himanshu Shekhar
Glaring Lapses — Common Thread in Twin Fire Tragedies in Rajkot and Delhi | Image:Republic Digital
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New Delhi: It was a tragic weekend for children, with two devastating incidents claiming young lives. In Rajkot, 35 people including nine children were charred to death in a fire at a gaming centre, while in Delhi, seven infants lost their lives at a private children's hospital. The mishaps took place within hours of each other in two different cities, however, they were linked by a common thread lapses in fire safety and a lack of regard for preventive measures. On Monday, the Gujarat High Court also rebuked the state government and officials for the massive fire at the gaming zone in Rajkot. “Have you gone blind? Did you fall asleep?” The High Court asked the State government. The incompetence and malpractice in Rajkot and Delhi fire cost 42 lives with families left to deal with the tragic losses. Will the culprits be punished? 

What Happened in Rajkot?

The massive blaze at Rajkot's gaming zone, TRP, resulted in the deaths of 35 people, including nine children. The centre was crowded with visitors due to summer vacations, the weekend, and a special ticket discount of Rs 99. 

Although not independently verified by Republic World, CCTV footage indicates that the fire began during welding work. Sparks from the welding ignited a nearby pile of plastic, rapidly escalating into an uncontrollable blaze. Workers tried to douse the fire but failed. As the flames spread, a temporary structure near the entrance collapsed, trapping several people inside. This tragic event has highlighted serious concerns about the safety standards at the facility.

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Series of Lapses at Rajkot Gaming Zone

  • Fire-Fighting Equipment Not Working: The initial investigation into the Rajkot tragedy uncovered that while fire equipment was available at the mall and gaming zone, it was not functional, as disclosed by the Chief Fire Officer to Republic. 
  • Fire-Fighting Equipment Wrapped, Unopened, Placed in Corner:The fire-fighting equipment remained unopened and wrapped at the location.
  • No Fire NOC Obtained: The gaming zone failed to obtain a Fire NOC (No Objection Certificate) for firefighting and safety conditions.
  • No Permission For Rides: The gaming zone did not receive permission to operate rides.
  • Gaming Zone Built Under Tin Shed: The Chief Fire Officer also disclosed that the gaming zone was constructed under a tin shed.
  • No Application Submitted: Fire officer mentioned that "no application ever reached Fire Services, Rajkot."
  • Fire Safety Protocol Not Followed: The Chief Fire Officer stated that the fire safety protocol was neglected at the mall and gaming zone.
  • No Paper Trail: According to the fire officer, there was no paper trail for the Rajkot gaming zone.
  • Only one Emergency Exit: The gaming zone had only one emergency exit, despite the requirement for most public buildings to have multiple exits.
  • Illegal Operation: The gaming zone, housed in a temporary tin shed structure, was operating illegally and lacked a clear fire escape plan.

How Rajkot Gaming Zone Fire Was A ‘Man-Made Disaster’

Story at Delhi Hospital No Different

Similarly, the tragic tale continues at the Baby Care New Born Hospital in Vivek Vihar, Delhi where seven innocent infants lost their lives in a devastating fire, further highlighting the hospital's negligence in adhering to safety regulations. According to the Delhi Police, the hospital lacked sufficient safety measures and was operating with an expired license. 

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Shahdara) Surendra Choudhary informed reporters that the Baby Care New Born hospital lacked essential fire-fighting arrangements. There were no fire extinguishers installed, inadequate entry and exit arrangements, and notably, no emergency exit in place.

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Glaring Lapses at Delhi Hospital 

  • Expired Licence: The private neonatal hospital was reportedly operating unlawfully with an expired license issued by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Government of Delhi, which had lapsed on March 31, 2024.
  • No Fire Extinguisher Installed: According to authorities, the hospital lacked fire safety measures, with no fire extinguisher installed and no emergency exit available. 
  • No Fire NOC: Additionally, it was revealed that the building had no fire NOC (No Objection Certificate), with officials planning to inspect related documents on Monday.
  • Unauthorized Oxygen Refilling Centre: Residents also raised concerns about an unauthorized oxygen refilling center within the hospital premises, which allegedly went unnoticed despite complaints to local authorities.
  • Unqualified Doctors: Moreover, there were reports of unqualified doctors, including those with BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery) degrees, being included in the hospital's duty roster, raising further questions about the quality of care provided.   

Man-made disaster: Gujarat HC Takes Suo Motu Cognizance of Rajkot Game Zone Fire

Meanwhile, a special bench of the Gujarat High Court took suo motu cognizance of the fire incident at a game zone in Rajkot and said it was prima facie a "man-made disaster". Such gaming zones and recreational facilities have come up without the necessary approvals from competent authorities, the bench of Justices Biren Vaishnav and Devan Desai observed. The bench directed advocates of the Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot municipal corporations to appear before it on Monday with instructions as to under what provisions of law the authorities led these units to be set up or continue to operate under their jurisdiction.

"We are shocked to read newspaper reports which indicate that the gaming zone at Rajkot appears to have taken advantage of the loopholes in the Gujarat Comprehensive General Development Control Regulations (GDCR). These entertainment zones, as newspapers suggest, have come up without the necessary approvals from the competent authorities," the court observed. 

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The HC also wanted to know from the state government and the municipal corporations "whether such licenses, including the licenses to its use and compliance of fire safety regulations" were given to these respective (entertainment) zones that are in territorial jurisdiction of these corporations.

These entertainment zones, as newspapers suggest, have come up without the necessary approvals from the competent authorities, the court noted. Quoting newspaper reports, the high court said temporary structures were created at the TRP game zone in Rajkot in order to overcome the hurdles caused in taking necessary permissions, no-objection certificates, including the fire NOC and construction permission. Not just Rajkot, such game zones have come up in Ahmedabad city as well and they "pose a significant threat to public safety, specially the innocent children," it said.  

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Published May 27th, 2024 at 13:44 IST