[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he wee hours of Wednesday (May 31, 2017) saw a major fire devouring the showroom of Chennai Silks in T Nagar, the biggest shopping hub in south India. Since the fire broke out in the early hours of the day when most part of the metropolis was sleeping, a major catastrophe was avoided. Had it happened during the day time, thousands of shoppers would have charred to death. A senior expert, who is a member of the Madras High Court appointed committee to monitor the safety of buildings in T Nagar had warned shoppers not to go anywhere near T Nagar as there is not a single building in the area which meets the fire-safety requirements mandated by the law.
In the eventuality of a fire, there is no system to evacuate the people to safety. This is because not a single building in T Nagar has followed safety and security regulations.
– M G Devasahayam, Member of Monitoring Committee appointed by the Madras High Court
The entire showroom, rated as one of the biggest sari showrooms in the country, was destroyed in the fire. What shocked the ordinary citizen was the callous attitude of powers that be in Chennai (read Tamil Nadu) who were vying with one another to save themselves from any blame.
What we saw by Thursday was officials, bureaucrats, safety experts and politicians blaming each other for the fire. The building that housed Chennai Silks was to be demolished in 2007 for blatant violation of all safety laws and regulations in the land. How the owners of the building bribed their way to a world of irresponsibility is something that causes apprehensions and concern in the mind of the common man.
A senior expert member in the committee appointed by Madras High Court to assess the security and safety of the cramped T Nagar, the retail hub of Chennai, has been quoted by TV channels and newspapers as telling that T Nagar is not safe and secure for thousands of shoppers who come from different parts of the country shopping for textile goods, jewellery and household articles. By Thursday noon government officials launched works for demolishing the remaining part of the sari shop.
“The terms safety and security have been given a go by in T Nagar. Shoppers are advised not to come to T Nagar as the area is vulnerable to major fires. In the eventuality of a fire, there is no system to evacuate the people to safety. This is because not a single building in T Nagar has followed safety and security regulations. All I could say is that most rotten corruption is going on here for the last 20 years irrespective of the fact of who is ruling Tamil Nadu,” said M G Devasahayam, a former IAS officer ad member of the Monitoring Committee appointed by the Madras High Court to assess the safety of T Nagar. He said the shopping area housing hundreds of showrooms and frequented by thousands of shoppers is a ticking time bomb.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he fire which ravaged Chennai Silks in the wee hours of Wednesday did not result in any human casualties. “It is all because of the timing of the mishap. Had it happened during busy hours, it would have ended up as a major catastrophe,” said one of the fire brigade officers engaged in putting down the fire on Thursday morning.
Devasahayam advised people not to go shopping in T Nagar till the official agencies issue safety and security clearance to all the buildings.
Meanwhile U Radhakrishnan, minister for housing blamed the shop owners and court for the fire. “Wednesday’s fire happened because of violation of norms. In 2000, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority had allowed only four floors for construction. But the shop owners violated the laws and constructed eight floors. Though we issued notices to the shop owners, they obtained stay orders from the court multiple times against a demolition order. There are around 86 illegal buildings in T Nagar which need to be demolished,” said the minister.
Some of South India’s biggest and leading textile and jewellery showrooms are based in T Nagar. People from Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana and even from Sri Lanka and Myanmar visit T Nagar to shop for popular brands. “All these buildings have been constructed in violation of all relevant regulations and laws specified in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. Even basic safety measures have not been followed. Though they have the permission to build only two stories, they have constructed eight stories in violation of all rules of the land. The politicians oblige them by regulating all the illegal structures,” said Devasahayam.
A senior fire brigade officer pointed out that this is the eighth or ninth major fire mishap occurring in T Nagar during the last one year. “It was only a few weeks back that a major fire brought down another shop though that too was devoid of any casualties. This cannot go on like this,” said the officer who did not want his name to be revealed.
Devasahayam advised people not to go shopping in T Nagar till the official agencies issue safety and security clearance to all the buildings. “Till then those who come to T Nagar are doing so at their own risk,” he warned.
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