After the Carlton towers fire incident in Bangalore, Commissioner of Police Shankar M Bidari issued a notification to all high-rise building owners and occupants to comply with approved plan sanctions and fire safety norms.
In this exclusive interview with Citizen Matters, Bidari spoke in detail about the order he has given.
Bidari has been the Commissioner of Police since 2008. He has previously served as the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Intelligence) and Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order).
With this recent order, Bidari appeals to the citizens of Bangalore to follow fire safety regulations and report any violations. Even as it is for the BBMP to check for building violations in the city, Bidari stresses that he will hold concerned officials responsible for any malpractice in plan sanctions.
You have issued directions under Section 70 of The Karnataka Police Act, 1963 in fulfillment of the duties cast on the Police under Section 68 Sub Section F of The Karnataka Police Act, 1963. You have issued directions beyond fire safety. You have issued it for plan sanctions and building bye-laws. Could you please explain how this has been done under the two sections of the Karnataka Police Act?
See the Karnataka Police Act is enacted with the sole intention of taking care of the welfare and well-being of the public. Karnataka Police Act Section section 68 F enjoins upon police as a routine to make all endeavours to ensure that loss on an account is prevented. Loss includes loss of human life also. These are the duty calls of the police. To discharge these duties, the police are empowered under Section 70 to issue any direction to the public.
I have issued a direction to the people at large, particularly those who are having buildings with four storeys or more. I have directed them that they should comply with the building laws, that is, building should conform to the plan approved. Plan approved includes violations approved also. That is under Section 187 of the Karnataka Municipalities Act 1964. Similarly I have directed the people not to occupy the building if they have not been given Completion Certificate or Occupancy Certificate as required under Section 193 of Karnataka Municipalities Act.
If they have occupied, I have told them to vacate immediately and keep the building in a vacant stage until they complete the Completion certificate or Occupancy Certificate. An I have also directed them to verify themselves and if necessary with the assistance of private individuals or fire force officer or Corporation officer, whether they are complying with the fire safety regulations. If not, I have given them some time rectify the mistakes and ensure that the building conforms to the fire safety regulations. I have also directed them to check whether the fire fighting equipment that is required to be kept as per fire regulations, whether it is kept, whether it is maintained in good working condition or not. These are basically the four directions I have given.
As the Commissioner of Police I am entrusted with protecting the life, honour, and property of the citizens of this great city. In exercise of my residuary powers I have given these directions. The original responsibility of the enforcement of the building laws, building plans and adherence to completion or occupancy certificate rests with BBMP because there is a separate department for that. Similarly the original responsibility of ensuring that each building conforms to fire safety regulations and each building maintains fire safety equipment rests with fire department. But as incharge of the overall security of the city I have given these directions in the interest of the public.
You are asking people to voluntarily disclose their plan sanction approvals and say if there are any violations.
Because there is no time for inspection. Because it is an emergency. Tomorrow another fire breaks out and few more lives are lost, hell will break lose. There’s no time. Every human being is interested in securing himself. Nobody wants to die. Nobody wants to become a victim of the fire. So self-interest prevails. Therefore I appeal to the self-interest and have given a direction in the interest of the persons working and owning the building, persons visiting the building. They should themselves check up in the first place. If after 45 days, if we do not get complaints from any building, then we’ll list out the building which have not complied. And we’ll request the fire department and BBMP to check and report.
How many people will come forward and declare that their plan is violative of certain byelaws or norms?
See the system is also bad. Any order, any measure, should not give scope for corruption. That’s why I have issued orders. They should themselves check up and intimate within 45 days.
There maybe violations. I have got information that a large number of buildings are violated. I have given the order with the intention that within 45 days such buildings which are not compliant, we’ll ask BBMP to inspect and report.
What about violations that will be regularised under Akrama Sakrama?
See for regularisation of violation there is a provision under the KMC Act. If anything can be regularised according to rules without jeopardizing frie safety, I have no objections if it is according to rules. It is for the urban development department and BBMP to look into those rules.
What if there is some violation with regard to fire safety and it applies under Akrama Sakrama?
Akrama Sakrama is a form of regularisation. It is also done under the provisions of the KMC Act only. And this is for the Assembly to decide.
Citizen Matters spoke to N S Mukunda, President, Citizens’ Action Forum (CAF), which is a federation of Resident Welfare Associations in the city. CAF has been working closely on the Akrama Sakrama issue for more than two years now. Mukunda says that buildings that violate fire safety rules should not be regularised, even under Akrama Sakrama.
You have said that fire safety rules have to be followed in high rise buildings now. How will this checked?
See, we should not presume that government officers are the only persons who know it. Every architect, every contractor knows what are the fire safety rules. And it is in their interest, it is for them to check up. Fire safety rules are there in the book.
But how many people have access to it? How many people know what the rules are?
They’ll be knowing. Architects and all will beknowing. It is in the public domain. If they do not know, they will go and ask the fire department. What is wrong in it?
Will they go and ask?
If they want to survive they will ask. Because in case of a fire accident, they are the people who are going to suffer. Are people not interested in their safety?
Suppose there are 10,000 buildings which have violations. We can at least ensure compliance in 5,000 buildings. The other 5,000 we’ll see later.
Citizen Matters tried to access the Fire Force Rules and Regulations. It’s not available on the Internet. We contacted the fire department and they asked us to collect it from their office. How many people will do this?
They don’t publish it. Newspapers also publish only a portion.
The Karnataka Fire Force Act, Rules and Regulations do not have guidelines on fire safety norms. They contain information only for the fire force. It is the National Building Code of India that specifies fire safety rules for the general public. The relevant portions are Part 3 and Part 4 of the National Building Code 2005. Part 3 is on ‘Development Control Rules and General Building Requirements’. Part 4 is on ‘Fire and Life Safety’.
Once the building owners intimate the nearest police station by April 15th that all the fire fighting equipment required to be maintained are in good working condition as on March 1st, 2010. How will the police ensure that they are furnishing the correct information?
First we will get the report. See only government officers are not responsible. Citizens are also responsible. There is no cause or reason to suspect the bonafides of any individual unless it is proved otherwise. First we’ll take the report, then we’ll see. It is not a process which will end today or tomorrow.
There are a number of cases where building violations have taken place, with the BBMP well aware of it. How can this be checked? What role will the law and order police play in this regard?
See, BBMP is supervised by urban development department. It is not under my focus. I do not have the power or duty or the inclination to check or verify the correctness of the work. But one thing is there, in case anything goes wrong there, I will hold the concerned officials also responsible.
An extremely well done Q & A session. Detailed answers give a clear picture of the challenge. Pointed queries more or less compelled the Chief to be forthcoming.
Hope Mr. Shakar Bidari follows through on his well-meaning objectives. One has be impressed by his candour.
It is not helpful to shift responsibility to the public-at-large when officials directly responsible do not execute their jobs. A concerned citizenry, however vigilant, is no substitute for public servants doing their jobs.
Firstly, thanks for making Mr. Bidari speak for the public on their responsibility through this excellent interview. But, all these are the reactions to what has happened in the carlton Towers. What will be interesting and good for all of us is, how proactive are the departments to safeguard public? What are the new initiatives they can come up to avoid such incidents in the future? And how far they can go to sustain their commitment and responsibilities? We can only hope for the best!