After a fire accident killed 13 people at a rooftop restaurant in Mumbai’s popular Kamala Mills compound in December 2017, the Karnataka Fire Safety and Emergency Services department, along with the BBMP, raided and issued closure notices to several rooftop establishments in Bengaluru for violation of fire safety norms. Several months later, many of these bars and restaurants are still open for business.
TNM reached out to some of the restaurants which were served these notices. An employee of a popular rooftop joint in the heart of Indiranagar, 612 East, said, “Yes, we did receive a notice for violating the fire safety rules couple of months back, but we are still open. We have not received anything else from the BBMP.” The restaurant clarified to TNM that they have taken necesaary action and got a stay order from higher authorities on the closure notices, which is why they are functioning.
A manager at Tippler On The Roof, a rooftop pub in Indiranagar, said that while they had received a notice, they have made the required rectifications and are thus open.
There are, however, other restaurants like Wall Street 657, which say they have heeded to the notice. “We received the notice and we have shut down services on our rooftop floor. We are now using the floor below it,” an employee said.
However, even officials of the BBMP accept that many such unsafe establishments remain open for business.
Why is no action being taken?
The fire safety department says that it has done its job and the ball is now in the BBMP’s court. NR Markandeya, the Deputy Director of the Karnataka Fire Safety and Emergency Services says, “See, we are emergency services. We have done our work. We have sent our reports to the BBMP. They are the ones who issue licences, they have not done it yet.”
BBMP officials say that procedural challenges and the ongoing election duty are the reasons they are unable to enforce the notices.
When asked about the BBMP’s inaction, Dr Siddappaji, Health Officer (East) says, “It is not only because of the elections, this issue requires coordination with many departments. The Health Department cannot say that a rooftop is a rooftop establishment. The Engineering department has to confirm that, only then can we take the matter further. The Health, Town Planning and Engineering departments, all three are involved. So, some files have been sent for approval to other departments, and some files have been approved.”
“Elections are causing the delay, yes, but also the Joint Commissioner must give the dispatch and sticking orders for the approved files,” he says, assuring that, “After the elections are over, this will definitely be done faster.”
While the BBMP gets its act together, lives are at risk and residents are not happy.
Sneha Nandihal, a member of the resident group, I Change in Indiranagar, says that the BBMP’s actions were flawed from the very beginning.
“The notices that were sent to the restaurants were flawed. BBMP has very conveniently mentioned something along the lines of ‘based on the residents’ complaints, we are issuing a notice to you. If you don’t shut it (the establishment) down, we will have to take action as per the law.’ But what about the by-laws? Don’t they have the responsibility of enforcing the law?”
A resident of Indiranagar, Praveen, says, “The language of the notice was not formal at all, it seemed like as if it wasn’t even processed by the BBMP legal team.”
“There are High Court orders to shut some of these restaurants down, and they are one-and-a-half years old, yet nothing has been done to them,” says another resident Sneha. She adds that they have also been following up the issue with the pollution control board, urging them to hold periodic checks on these establishments.