In a classic case of apathy, the inspection carried out by the State Energy Department, into a fire that broke out at the Golden Chariot Hotel, located at Hub Mall, Goregaon East, in December last year, has remained on paper and the hotel has resumed normal operations despite the fire brigade revoking an NOC granted to it.
The hotel was gutted by a massive fire on December 29, 2016 and the hotel management was accused of carrying out structural changes and blocking fire exits, which allegedly led to delay in putting off the fire.
When contacted Pravin Agarwal, one of the Directors of the Golden Chariot Retreats and Infra Private Limited told The Afternoon D & C that, “It was a small fire and now everything is in order and the hotel has been functioning normally.” When asked about the cause of the fire, he replied, “You ask this to the fire brigade.”
In turn, Deputy Chief Fire Officer Vijaykumar Panigrahi maintained that the NOC granted to the hotel has already been revoked and all the facts have been placed before the BMC’s P south ward office. Now it is the responsibility of the respective ward office to verify whether the hotel is open or closed down.
In its report dated 6th March 2017, the fire brigade had stated, "It seems there are discrepancies in the area, encroachment, unauthorised addition/alteration, construction of loft, etc. in the said premise... In view of the above, the NOC/requirement letter issued under no. FBL/S/106/1076 dated 01/11/2006 by this department stands cancelled."
Whereas Assistant Municipal Commissioner Santosh Dhond claimed that the BMC has taken necessary action and served notice to the hotel owner, but he has moved the court in the matter.
But basically, the whole inquiry is shrouded in mystery. As per the information collected by activist Sulaiman Bhimani through RTI query, the Assistant Electrical Inspector of the State Energy Department, in his report dated 18 January 2017 has stated that the fire broke due to the combustion of oil accumulated in the chimney when it came in contact with a spark emanated from the tandoor oven. The same report also stated that there was no trace of a short circuit. However the manager of the hotel tried to manipulate that the fire emanated from the switchboard, Bhimani said.
Commenting on the alleged “hide and seek” between the fire brigade and the BMC, Bhimani said that when a fire breaks out, everyone shouts and announcement of “strict implementation of fire safety norms” is made but after a few days everything is back to square one and authorities themselves leave loopholes to enable the guilty to circumvent the action.
In another development, the designated officer, P Southward has sent notices under section 488 of the BMC Act, on 25 March 2017, to different occupants of the Hub Mall, including “Palasia Saloon” saying that the inspection of their premises will be carried out anytime on 29 March 2017. This is nothing else but an attempt to pressurise them so that they do not reveal anything to outsiders about the laxities within the mall, Bhimani said.
Appeal to all to support the cause by signing and promoting the petition http://tinyurl.com/jk47wmf The petition is about safety of Innocent people from Fire Hazard due to high scale corruption in Fire Dept and inaction as well as lethargy of Fire Dept. endangering lives of many innocent citizens.
The Hon’ble Chief Minister,Shri Devendra Fadnavis,
Mantralaya, 6th Floor, Madame Cama Road,
Mumbai – 400032.
BMC Head Office, Mahapalika Marg,
Mumbai – 400001.
Mumbai Police Commissioner,
T. Marg, Opp. Crawford Market,
Mumbai – 400002.
Sub: Inaction by the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) of Mumbai Fire Brigade, Suburban Head Quarters, Marol Fire Station, Marol Naka, Mumbai, (and other officers) with regards to the illegal constructions done and subsequent fire at “Golden Chariot Restaurant” in “The Hub Mall”, Goregaon (East), Mumbai. (Hereinafter referred to as “said Restaurant” for sake of brevity), on 28.12.2016.
Sir / Madam,
We, the undersigned, fully support this Petition created by the NGO – “Citizens Justice Forum” which is working in the public interest to protest against the inaction of the concerned officers against the said Restaurant which had grossly violated construction norms and thus had resulted in a big fire on 28.12.2016.
It is highly regrettable that the authorities entrusted with the implementation of the Fire Safety norms have miserably failed to perform their duties which gave a liberty to a few devious persons to violate the law with impunity.
The said Restaurant has been operating illegally since 2008 without the mandatory permissions from MCGM – the Bldg. and Factory Dept., Fire Department etc. On 16.1.2013 the Fire Brigade Department of the MCGM after inspection of the said restaurant, submitted a report to the CFO, notifying him about the gross violations and a demand to initiate penal action against the said Restaurant. (We annex a copy of the said letter as Exhibit “A” )
CGM, Fire Department via letter dated 19.6.2014 once again notified the CFO about the various encroachments, construction in the fire exit area, deviation from the sanctioned plans and again recommended immediate action against the said Restaurant. (A copy of the said letter has been annexed and marked as Exhibit “B”).
Again MCGM’s Fire Department via letter dated 14.11.14 submitted afresh complaint to the CFO highlighting the disobedience and defiance by the said restaurant and continuation of the various violations in spite of multiple notices. They also informed the CFO that the MOH and Fire Brigade Department have rejected the application for the trade license of the said Restaurant. Despite the repeated reminders by the MCGM’s Fire Department, the CFO chose not to take any action against the said Restaurant. This non-performance of the statutory duty by the CFO undeniably amounts to aiding and abetting unauthorized constructions and nexus with this law-breaker for possible illegal gratifications. ( A copy of the said letter has been annexed and marked as Exhibit “C”.)
On 28.12.2016 at 12.20 p.m a major fire broke out in the said Restaurant which is situated on the second floor of the Hub Mall. Sweltering fire engulfed the said Restaurant and the people inside did not have any immediate access to any of the Fire Exits as the illegal alteration and construction had blocked all the exits of the said Restaurant. A major tragedy was thwarted due to the timely action of the six fire tenders pressed into service by the Fire Brigade department. The fire was quelled only in the evening and the incident was covered largely by the media also. ( A copy of the print media coverage on the above said incident is annexed and marked as Exhibit-“D”.)
It is pertinent to note that even after the blaze on 28.12.2016, no action whatsoever has been initiated against the said Restaurant by the CFO nor an FIR has been lodged which is in contravention of the the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2009.
Furthermore, to add insult to injury, the said Restaurant is functioning as usual, posing a serious threat to the unwary patrons who may become victims to the manipulations and connivance of the authorities and the owners of the said Restaurant, in case a similar incident recurs, rendering their lives in peril.
With great remorse it is submitted that if such delaying and colluding tactics are to be stopped, some stringent action has to be taken by ruthlessly demolishing the illegal constructions and alterations made by the said restaurant by following the due process of law.
Eegretfully it has become a sort of a norm in our society that affluent persons can escape the clutches of law or twist the arm of law by some manipulation and greasing of palms. This norm must be proved wrong and a true meaning should be given to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. I hereby earnestly request you to inquire into this matter with urgency and issue directions to the concerned authorities to initiate appropriate action against the said restaurant at the earliest and not wait for another fatal fire incident to occur.
The period to rectify and make necessary changes or to meet the compliance as per law is 120 days after giving the notice. But more than 120 days have lapsed and no compliance has been met till date under the Rules of Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measure Act, 2006. Under the latter Law there is a provision to start prosecution proceedings by lodging FIR regarding non- compliance of fire and life safety regulation by competent authority i.e. Mumbai fire Brigade. But Mumbai Fire Brigade failed to take any action for reasons best known to them. To the common man it would be appear to be for illegal gratifications.
There should be Departmental Inquiry to probe the involvement of Fire Brigade staff, Asstt. Mun. Commissioner, Astt. Engr. (B&F), MoH etc. of MCGM’s P/South ward, Police Officers of Vanrai Police Station etc. These law-enforcers should be dealt strictly in accordance with the Service Rules, Prevention of Corruption Act, IPC and other laws of the land and criminal proceeding should be initiated against them
We would like to draw your attention to Section 10 of the Transfers and Delays Act 21 of 2006/ (64C of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act)which mandates that no decision can be kept pending for over 3 months. In the instant case, no action is initiated despite complaints being made from December 2015. So we request to conduct a preliminary enquiry to fix responsibility on the officers responsible for this delay and take appropriate disciplinary action against them. We request that the report of the enquiry may please be sent to us, furnished to the media and uploaded on the MCGM and Maharashtra Govt. website.
We further wish to state that these concerned officers ( viz. the Mumbai Fore Brigade’s CFO, MoH, A.E. (B&F) of P/South ward, Sr. Police Inspector of Vanrai Police Station, concerned ACP and DCP etc. by their inaction on this gross illegality are violating the following provisions and attract punishment under :
IPC 217: Public servant disobeying direction of law with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture.
IPC 218: Public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture.
IPC 221: Intentional omission to apprehend on the part of public servant bound to apprehend.
So we urge you to at least now take immediate suitable action to prevent similar tragedy and punish all the concerned officers who had connived to facilitate illegal construction which had resulted in this inferno.
We would appreciate if we are inform of the action taken on our above concerns and the inquiry reports as and when they are completed.
Additional Municipal Commissioner (Western Suburbs)
Kiran Kumar Chavan
Sub: A) High Level Corruption in Fire Department, CFO Fails to submit Fire report even after three weeks of fire incident to favor owner of Golden Chariot and fails to initiate prosecution proceeding against the owner of Golden Chariot Restaurant even after incident of Fire taking place on 28th December 2016.
B) CFO had already issued 3 notices to the Golden chariot restaurantfor non compliance of Fire Safety Norms in last three years, but chooses not to take any action due to vested interest risking life of many innocent citizens
C) The MOH and Fire Brigade Department have rejected the application for the trade license of M/s. Golden Chariot Hospitality Service Pvt. Ltd.but the restaurant is ruining and doing business as usual
Respected Sir / Madam
This is a clear case of undue favor given to Golden Chariot Restaurant at Hub Mall, Goregaon East, THE CFO, MOH B&F department of MCGM and Police fail to take any action after the incident of fire took placed on 28th December 2016,
The Fire department till date has not submitted their report even after three weeks to the police for further investigation and prosecution of filing FIR.
The Fire Department have already issued 3 notices before to the Golden Chariot restaurant for non compliance of fire safety norms before incident of fire took placed on 28th December 2016,
The offences are of serious nature
i) The Fire exit was converted in to cold storage
ii) The passage leading to Fire exit was encroached and converted into restaurant dining area
iii) The AHU's and Electric rooms converted into commercial rooms (these are free of FSI loss to the state and violation of FSI norms)
iv) The common ladies toilets were modified and altered without any approval of any authorities into ladies and gents, and were illegally taken in to the restaurant denying access to visitors of the MALL
All the above have lapses and observation have been mentioned in the all the three notices issued time and again
1st Noticethe inspection by the fire brigade department of the MCGM. On inspection of the site, the said authority submitted a report dated 16.1.13 to CFO with necessary recommendations and actions to be in initiated. The report clearly directed that the activities of the said restaurant be verified and necessary action be taken.
2nd Notice report dated 19.6.14 to the Dy. CFO which recommends the following actions:
a.)Verification addition/alteration amalgamation, encroachment of fire exit, removal of unauthorized fire exit passage, toilet, loft etc.
b.)To direct the party to keep the necessary no. of fire extinguishers as directed by the said authority.
3rd Notice by MCGM, fire brigade department once again submitted a complaint report dated 14.11.14 to the CFO. The highlights of the observations in the said report are as follows:
a)In the north side landing on the second floor, the staircase landing was partially obstructed by keeping refrigerator and other things by the Golden Chariot restaurant and an unauthorized construction of the steel frame plywood sheet enclosure box of A.C. unit and a steel ladder for access to the loft in encroached area of common passage by the Golden Chariot restaurant.
b)The common toilet block along with its approach passage and way to emergency exit of north side staircase was blocked for public use by illegally encroaching and utilizing it for restaurant activity by Golden chariot Restaurant.
c)The amalgamation of two shops n0. 23 and 24 along with its front common passage was done and merged it in dining area by Golden Chariot Restaurant without taking NOC and sanctioning the plan fromthe Fire Brigade Department.
d)In view of the above circumstance, I have to inform you that the MOH and Fire Brigade Department have rejected the application for the trade license of M/s. Golden Chariot Hospitality Service Pvt. Ltd.
The period to rectify and make necessary changes or to meet the compliance as per law is 120 days after giving the notice, more than 120 days have lapsed and no compliance has been met till date Under Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measure Act, 2006 Rules there is a provision to start prosecution proceedings by lodging FIR regarding non compliance of fire and life safety regulation by competent authority i.e. Mumbai fire Brigade. But Mumbai Fire Brigade failed to take any action reason best known to them or were they were bribed is question that will come to anybody’s mind
There should be departmental Inquiry on the involvement of Fire Brigade staff, P/ South ward MCGM concerned officers and the police officers of vanrai and they should be dealt strictly in accordance with law and should not only be suspended but criminal proceeding should be initiated against them
We would like to draw your attention to Section 10 of the Transfers and Delays Act 21 of 2006/ (64C of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act) which mandates that no decision can be kept pending for over 3 months. In the instant case, no action is initiated despite the complaints are made from December 20115, we request to conduct a preliminary enquiry to fix responsibility on the officers responsible for this delay and take appropriate disciplinary action against them. We request that the report of the enquiry may please be sent to us
We further wish to bring to your knowledge certain penal provisions which bring the CFO. MCGM Staff (i.e. MOH, B& F dept.) under the purview:
The Indian Penal Code
IPC 217: Public servant disobeying direction of law with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture
IPC 218: Public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture
IPC 218: Intentional omission to apprehend on the part of public servant bound to apprehend.
Monday, 9 March, 2015, Mumbai: Imagine you are enjoying dinner with your family at Golden Chariot restaurant, on the second floor of Goregaon's famous mall, The Hub. Suddenly, you see smoke. No, not the delicious smoke from a sizzler, but the black, rubbery-smelling smoke from a short-circuit. An uncontrolled blaze has broken out in the building. People are shouting, "Fire! Fire!" and stampeding in panic. But you are calm. You guide your family to the nearest door that says, "FIRE EXIT". But you are shocked to find that this door only leads to toilets and an enclosed room where drinks and junk are being stored! It does not lead to a staircase! You angrily start yelling at the Golden Chariot employees, asking where is the nearest genuine fire exit door that leads to a staircase. But nobody replies; people are running helter-skelter, the dimly-lit restaurant is filling up with thick smoke, and the temperature is rising.
Photo 1: Activist Sulaiman Bhimani (right) shows a false Fire exit no. 1 in Golden Chariot restaurant. The fire exit has been illegally enclosed and converted into a storage area.
Then you see another large door in the same hall marked "FIRE EXIT". You push the door desperately, but the door does not open. It is locked! Your wife and children are depending on you, and you are wasting precious minutes by leading them into dead ends!
Photo 2: Sulaiman Bhimani pushes Fire exit no. 2 in Golden Chariot, to show that the door is kept locked and will not open.
Finally, you all manage to run out of Golden Chariot restaurant, and reach the fire-exit staircase. You see other people going down the staircase, and you feel reassured that only two floors down, there is a door to exit the burning building.
But when you reach the ground floor, you are in for another shock: the door for going out of the building is chain-locked from outside! You can peep outside and shout, but the opening is too narrow to get out of!
Photo 3: On ground floor, one fire exit is chained from outside.
Photo 4: A close-up showing the chain-locked door.
The crowd that is trapped with you is pushing, shoving and turning into a panicky stampeding mob. You all try running to another door, and this one is locked from within!
Photo 5: Another ground-floor fire-exit, locked from inside. Imagine being trapped by this door while trying to escape a fire!
Many of the ways out of Hub Mall seem to be barred! By now, the boxes of goods and inflammable junk that are stored in the fire-exit by Big Bazaar in the basement have caught fire, and the stairwell is starting to feel like the chimney of a furnace! Thoughts of the 59 people who died in the Uphaar Cinema tragedy behind closed fire-exits flashes through your mind...
Is your family safe when it visits The Hub? On the contrary, it has been converted into an accident-waiting-to-happen. Next time you visit to Goregaon's Hub Mall, please take the trouble to walk around the fire-escape doors and walk up and down the stairwells. See for yourself how many fireexit doors are closed, and how many fire-exit passages have been encroached by greedy hoteliers and storekeepers.
Motivated by whistleblower Shaikh Fakhruddin "Fakhru" Junaid, who owns a shop on the second floor, RTI activists Sulaiman Bhimani and Krishnaraj Rao took such a walk on Saturday, and they took photographs of the hazards. Are the authorities aware of these hazards? Absolutely! Fakhru has been complaining to Mumbai Fire Brigade for the last two years, and the Chief Fire Officer's office has written to the Municipal Corporation noting the grave violations. The office of the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) reported various violations to MCGM on 14th November 2014.
CFO's letter: http://tinyurl.com/CFO-Golden-Chariot Fakhru's letters to MCGM: http://tinyurl.com/Complaint-Golden-Chariot
Highlights of the CFO's observations:
"In the north side landing on the second floor, the staircase landing was partially obstructed by keeping refrigerator and other things by the Golden Chariot restaurant and an unauthorized construction of the steel frame plywood sheet enclosure box for A.C. Unit and a steel ladder for access to the loft in encroached area of common passage by the Golden Chariot restaurant.
"The common toilet block along with its approach passage and way to emergency exit of north side staircase was blocked for public use by illegally encroaching and utilizing it for restaurant activity by Golden Chariot Restaurant."
"The amalgamation of two shop no. 23 and 24 along with its front common passage was done and merged it in the dining area by Golden Chariot restaurant without taking NOC and sanctioning the plan from the Fire Brigade Department."
"In view of the above circumstances, I have to inform you that the MOH and Fire Brigade Department have already rejected the application for the trade licence of M/s Golden Chariot Hospitality Services Pvt. Ltd..."
Ok, so let's get this straight: Golden Chariot doesn't even have a licence to manufacture and serve food, but even then, it is not only serving food, but also alcohol. And it holds live performances!
Photo 6: No licence to even serve food... but here they are, serving drinks and holding live performances!
However, the police sees fit to give this dangerous unlicensed restaurant a license to attract the public by holding live performances! See this police performance license: http://tinyurl.com/Performance-Golden-Chariot
Bear in mind, private house parties have been raided by cops, and named and shamed in the media for serving liquor and organizing an unlicensed performance for a single evening! So, the question arises whether the excise department and the police department is hand-in-glove with the restaurant owners? How come they have not cracked down on such blatant and continuing violations of various laws and public safety norms?
One must keep wondering… because yeh hai Mumbai, meri jaan!
Big Bazaar – a bomb in the basement
The story however does not end with Golden Chariot. Big Bazaar, which is situated in the basement of Goregaon’s Hub Mall, is another dangerous violator. Not only is it carrying on business illegally in the basement (a major MRTP violation), but further compounding the hazards, Big Bazaar has blocked numerous fire escapes with shopping carts, cartons of inflammable goods, and huge piles of garbage. See these photos taken on Saturday.
Photo 7: This Big Bazaar fire exit is filled with goods, weighing machines, etc.
Photo 8: In this fire exit, Big Bazaar carries on backroom operations.
Photo 9: This stairwell is used to store flammable junk, and backroom operations.
See many more high-res photos of Fire Safety Hazards of Hub Mall, Big Bazaar and Golden Chariot: http://tinyurl.com/Photos-Hub-Mall-Golden-Chariot
Journalists interested in knowing more may contact: Fakruddin: 08879-414793 Jyoti Ladwal: 098-20-607950 Akash Dhupar: 099-20-752746 Human Rights & RTI Activist Sulaiman Bhimani 093-23-642081
ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY Krishnaraj Rao 9821588114 9821588114
This is a letter that has been forwarded to me to help raise attention to this serious issue:
Dear Sir /Madam,
I live on the 11th Floor of Embassy Apartments, N.S. Road, right next to P.D.P and just down the road from Mont Blanc where the fire last night took the lives of atl east 6 people.
In our building the resident of the TOP FLOOR (12th), has closed the staircase and terrace with locked doors, so he may control the entire 12th floor & terrace including the landing and lobby. The Terrace on which the Water Tank is installed is also under this persons control with lock and key. Despite notices from the Fire Brigade the doors remain in place. In case of a Fire in our building, we have no place to escape, except to the terrace, and that way is closed. This danger to the safety of the residents of our building is allowed to remain because this Top Floor resident claims to be very politically connected. Even the society Managing Committee supports this barricading as he is on the committee and business associate of the society secretary.
I have been fighting the local ward office to have these doors removed for the past 3 years. They even issued a Notice to the Society & the top floor resident under section 55 of the M.R.T.P. Act (Copy enclosed). But then under political pressure from (copy of letter sent by politician to MCGM available with me) from the Top Floor, the Ward Officer gave in writing that the MRTP order will not be pursued further.
I have attached some pictures showing the barricaded staircase in our building along with this email.
As a concerned citizen of this city who is being made to run pillar to post to ensure the safety of his family in the event of a fire in my building, I write to you with a last hope that you may deem this a fit case to expose this total lackadaisical approach the MCGM has towards the safety of the citizens of Mumbai. My building is another tragedy waiting to happen.
If you would like to follow through on this story, please contact me on 9821113288. I look forward to your positive response.
Here is a copy of the notice served to the society and top floor resident by the local ward office: