Rajkot gaming zone lacked fire safety clearance, owner and manager held: Police - Hindustan Times
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Rajkot gaming zone lacked fire safety clearance, owner and manager held: Police

May 27, 2024 04:57 AM IST

At least 27 people, including four children, were killed after a massive fire broke out at TRP Gaming Zone in Gujarat’s Rajkot on Saturday.

The TRP Gaming Zone in Gujarat’s Rajkot, where 27 people were killed in a massive blaze on Saturday, did not have the required fire safety clearance from the city’s municipal corporation at the time of the incident and the facility’s owner and the manager have been arrested under various charges including culpable homicide, police said on Sunday.

Firefighters searching for victims amidst the debris following a fire in the TRP Gaming Zone in Gujarat’s Rajkot on Sunday. (REUTERS)
Firefighters searching for victims amidst the debris following a fire in the TRP Gaming Zone in Gujarat’s Rajkot on Sunday. (REUTERS)

Also Read: What Rajkot fire disaster tells us

Rajkot commissioner of police (CP) Raju Bhargav said a complaint has been registered at the Rajkot Taluka Police Station against six accused individuals, including Yuvraj Singh Solanki, the owner of the gaming zone, and his manager, Nitin Jain. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been formed under the leadership of Joint CP Vidhi Chowdhary to probe the incident thoroughly and a hunt is on for nabbing the other four accused, said the CP.

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According to police, the gaming facility had been granted a booking license in November 2023 and subsequently renewed to operate from January 1, 2024 to December 31, 2024.

“While the gaming zone owners had submitted bills to the police for fire safety equipment and claimed to have installed such equipment on the premises, the measures taken were inadequate and ineffective in controlling the situation…Th process for obtaining the necessary Fire NOC (No Objection Certificate) was underway but had not been completed when the tragic incident took place,” Bhargav told media persons in Rajkot on Sunday afternoon.

The TRP Gaming Zone witnessed an overwhelming influx of visitors due to a tempting discount scheme, where the entry fee was slashed from 500 to just 99, aimed at attracting more people during the holiday and weekend period.

At least 40 persons were rescued from the site, according to Bhargav. The process of DNA matching for the 27 recovered bodies is currently underway at the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Gandhinagar. The deceased included four children.

In an attempt to circumvent municipal approvals, the gaming zone was established in a shed structure, and a three-storey facility was subsequently set up. “The fire is likely to have started from a welding spark on a ladder. With only one available staircase, visitors on the second and third floors found themselves trapped, leading to a higher number of casualties,” said a person aware of the matter.

Also Read: Rajkot game zone fire might have started due to welding work, says police

There was stock of highly inflammable materials such as fuel and tyres, fiber glass shades, thermocol sheet partitions; some of these were for go-carting and all these created an extremely combustible environment, according to people familiar with the matter.

Police said a first information report (FIR) has been registered against the six accused individuals under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), and 114 (abettor present when offense is committed) of the Indian Penal Code.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat High Court on Sunday took suo motu cognizance of the incident based on newspaper reports. Expressing shock over the loss of innocent lives, a division bench comprising justices Biren Vaishnav and Devan M Desai ordered the Registry to register a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) in the matter.

The court observed that prima facie, it looked like a “man-made disaster”, where many lives have been lost.

The court has directed the panel advocates of the Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat, and Rajkot Municipal Corporations as well as the additional advocate general of the State of Gujarat to appear before it on Monday with instructions on the provisions of law under which these gaming zones and recreational facilities were allowed to be set up and operated.

The court questioned whether the necessary licenses, including compliance with fire safety regulations, were undertaken by these gaming zones within the territorial jurisdiction of these corporations.

The court observed, “Prima-facie, a man-made disaster has occurred where many lives have been lost and families have grieved today for the loss of lives in their respective families.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday announced ex-gratia of 2 lakh from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) for the next of kin of each deceased. The injured would be given 50,000.

The Gujarat government on Saturday had announced ex-gratia of 4 lakh for the families of the deceased.

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