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Andheri fire: Pharmacy was unlicensed

Trouble had hit the medical store 15 days before it caught fire, when it was slapped with a notice for operating without a BMC licence or FDA approval

Wafa Medical, the pharmacy in Juhu Galli that caught fire yesterday, was already in trouble before it got gutted. On June 15, the BMC had served it with a notice after finding that the pharmacy neither had a licence from the civic body’s health department nor from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

Illegal constructions are rampant in the area. Pics/Prabhanjan Dhanu
Illegal constructions are rampant in the area. Pics/Prabhanjan Dhanu

Parag Masurkar, assistant municipal commissioner, BMC’s K-West ward, said civic officials had visited the pharmacy as part of an inspection drive. “They failed to produce any documents. They did not have a health licence from the ward, nor could they produce an FDA licence. Therefore, we filed a negative inspection report and prosecuted them under Section 394 of the MMC Act. The matter was sent to the legal department,” Masurkar said.

Unprotected electric wiring posed a further risk right outside the living quarters of the family
Unprotected electric wiring posed a further risk right outside the living quarters of the family

Illegal construction
Besides the lack of permits, the pharmacy is also in an area that is filled with illegal constructions.

“All these structures came up before 2000 and they are protected by law. It is the responsibility of Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to give residents alternative accommodation and let us demolish the structures. Wherever redevelopment is planned, the SRA becomes the planning authority. But we will now do a survey and determine which areas are not being redeveloped,” added Masurkar.

According to rules, all the upper floors are illegal since slums cannot be taller than 14 feet. When asked why has BMC not demolished these illegal floors, the official blamed it on staff crunch. “This is a very dense slum pocket with a population of almost 65,000. To demolish all the illegal structures, we will require tremendous manpower, which we don’t have,” he said.

Power theft
Illegal structures gave birth to another problem, which may have caused Thursday’s fire: power theft. “Those living on the upper floors do not get electricity connections. Many of these people steal power from those who have legal connections or from power boxes. Neither the private company that supplies power nor police do anything,” said a resident, who has been living there for 30 years.

Other residents also confirmed that power theft is very common in the area. Since people run heavy appliances on illegal connections, short circuits have become a common occurrence. Ameet Satam, corporator and MLA from the area, said, “Yes, power theft is very common in this area and officials are in the know. But I can’t tell whether this particular shop had a legal or illegal connection.”

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