Only 18 institutions have obtained the No Objection Certificate, says District Fire Officer
The concept of ‘fire safety’ appears to be of no concern for managements of corporate colleges or parents of the students studying there.
“We are lucky, as no untoward incident has taken place so far,” a worried District Fire Officer (DFO) V. Srinivas told The Hindu. In Krishna district there are 256 junior colleges of which 22 are government-run, 23 aided, and the rest corporate/private colleges. In Vijayawada city itself there are about 80 campuses and many of them are housed in apartments located in densely-populated commercial or residential areas.
It is estimated that at any given time, each of these campuses has at least 500 to 700 students. According to the DFO only 18 colleges have obtained the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Fire Department since 2011.
A senior officer from the Education Department on condition of anonymity said: “Fire safety is given the least priority, despite colleges collecting exorbitant fee. Obtaining an NOC is mandatory, but is bypassed, as the basic fire safety infrastructure costs close to Rs.15 lakh per campus.”
Explaining how the colleges hoodwink the department, the DFO said that most of the campuses were housed in rented apartment-like premises ensuring the height of building does exceed 18 metres. As per National Building Code, residential houses below 18 metres or G plus four floors need not obtain the NOC. “The buildings are registered as residential complexes under private names, technically, so we are unable to act,” he added.
None of the specifications mentioned in the NBC for colleges is adhered to in these buildings. The irregularities begin with the narrow corridors, no second staircase and no fire-fighting equipment like hoses or axes or sand buckets or exclusive water storage tanks in place.
“The parents are to be blamed as they admit their children into these colleges without questioning the management on these aspects. They just want their children to join the rat race,” said Jana Vignana Vedika State president Jampa Krishna Kishore.