Day after fire, Delhi PG’s residents say they had flagged concerns
The locality also has several structures that provide cheap housing for students and working professionals
Wood stored in the parking lot, loose wires hanging outside the rooms, multiple cylinders on a terrace kitchen, and cramped quarters — these were just some of the many concerns flagged by the residents of a paying guest (PG) accommodation at Mukherjee Nagar that caught fire on Wednesday night.
Mukherjee Nagar, in north Delhi, is one of the hubs for students pursuing higher education, right from undergraduate courses to civil services coaching. The locality also has several structures that provide cheap housing for students and working professionals, many of whom live in these PG accommodations.
However, the area is also infamous for fire incidents — three months ago, a major blaze broke out in a four-storey commercial building housing a coaching centre, injuring 61 students.
Most coaching centres, as well as PG accommodations, do not need a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the fire department to operate. “But fire safety measures should be in place and residents should be taught how to extinguish small fires and how to save themselves,” said Atul Garg, director, Delhi Fire Services. According to the preliminary inquiry by the police, Wednesday’s fire originated from the electricity meter installed near the staircase of the four-storey PG, something that the residents had flagged multiple times. As the fire spread, 35 women were trapped in the building, and five people, including a three-year-old girl, were rescued by fire officials.
Ritika Rajput, 20, originally from Bijnor in UP, was studying in her room on the first floor of the building when the fire broke out at around 7.30pm. When she stepped out of her room, she saw that the thick smoke had engulfed the stairway.
“Some of us immediately ran downstairs. The fire spread within no time and women who were on the upper floors got stuck,” she said, adding that those on the upper storeys manage to escape by reaching the terrace, and climbing into adjourning buildings. “They broke open a hole in the wall of the top floor from the terrace of the adjacent building and some helped us get out,” said a 21-year-old resident of the PG and a UPSC aspirant, requesting anonymity. Some women said that residents of a men’s PG located opposite the building and other students stepped up to rescue them till police and the fire department arrived.
Rajput said that the building lacked basic fire safety, adding that though the building had extinguishers, no one knew how to use them and they had expired in April.
“The parking on the ground earlier used to have a kitchen where they would keep about 10 cylinders. The electricity meter and water motor were also there. After a coaching centre caught fire here in June, they shifted the kitchen to the terrace but the food is commonly cooked here for all the PGs run by the same owner,” she said.
Meanwhile, a police officer aware of the matter said that the owner of the building has been identified as one Kulbhushan who had rented out the building to a man named Amit. Both of them have been asked to join investigation, he said. On Thursday, security personnel were deployed outside the building and no one was allowed inside. Rajput and others have now moved to another accommodation in the Mukherjee Nagar owned by the same person who ran the PG.
Other PGs in the area visited by HT told a similar story. One of the PGs, behind the building that caught fire, still ran its kitchen in the parking area. Yet another one had about seven box-like enclosures (10 feet by 3 feet) with a bed, an almirah and a table.