Mumbai: BMC fails to act on fire department directive, puts lives at risk

The directive asks the civic body to revoke the Occupation Certificate of two floors of a building in Opera House

The BMC is sitting on a fire department directive, issued a month ago, to revoke the Occupation Certificate (OC) of two floors of a building in Opera House, which have been termed illegal. The building’s height is not in proportion with the amount of space mandated by the fire brigade to be kept open in case of an emergency. It is also in direct contradiction to the undertaking filed by the owner decade ago.

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Parekh Market at Opera House
Parekh Market at Opera House

Parekh Market is a four-decade-old building at Opera House, which has been embroiled in controversy for the past few years. Initially consisting of eight floors, the two extra floors were constructed in the early 1980s with a retrospective permission. “When the owners required an OC for the topmost floors, the fire brigade asked them to submit an undertaking stating that they will leave a five-metre space in front of the building to allow fire engines to enter in case of an emergency. But in August 1981, the then chief fire officer filed a non-compliance report where he directed the Building Proposal (BP) department to revoke the OC of floors above 80 feet since the Parekhs had not fulfilled their undertaking. It has been 35 years since then, the BMC has not taken any action and by doing so it is putting the lives of the thousands of people working in Parekh Market at risk,” said Jitendra Ghadge, whose shop is in the adjacent building.

According to Ghadge, Parekh is filing eviction notices against him and other tenants because the building is in the way of the expansion of the gate of the market.

In a letter dated April 7, 2015, the divisional fire officer PB Bhosale has written to the BP department directing them to revoke the OC of these floors.

Deputy chief fire officer P S Rahangdale said, “In such cases, depending on the nature of the violation, the BMC can prosecute the defaulter under Section 3 of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Safety Act. I am going to send a reminder to the BMC soon.”

Vijay Tawde, executive engineer of the BP department said that he was unaware of any such development, but assured to look into the matter.

Girish Parekh, the developer and Ghadge’s landlord, told sunday mid-day that he has not received any such notice from the BMC. “I am not the owner of the building. The co-operative housing society is. As of the width of the gate, we have an eight-metre wide gate in the building,” he elaborated. When pointed out that the gate is at the rear of the building and is locked at all times, Parekh said that it is due to security purpose. Meanwhile, occupants of the offices on the ninth floor were clueless about the notice. “We are in the process of sending a letter to the co-operative housing society. Once they receive it, they will have 15 days to comply, otherwise legal action will be taken. Let’s not sensationalise the issue. After all, the CFO’s letter is open to interpretation,” said an official from the BP department.

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