Illegal floor housed 100 ‘legal’ shops
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The mezzanine floor of the Surya Sen market complex — where a devastating fire killed 20 people on Wednesday — was illegal, but ironically, it housed 100 shops that ran with Kolkata Municipal Corporation licences.
Contradictions like this point to the administrative lapses that contributed to the devastating blaze in the wholesale paper and plastic products market in Sealdah, which killed 20 people and injured many others.
According to figures collected from KMC, there were around 250 shops in the G+4 building and around 110 of these were on the mezzanine floor, where the fire took place. The mezzanine floor, which had no building licence, accommodated around 100 shops which had KMC licences.
Investigations by The Indian Express found that the Surya Sen complex, which is spread over 20 cottah, did not have a KMC licence to run a market in the first place.
The corporation lost around Rs 3.3 lakh annually since the fourth quarter of 2007-08, when the building owners stopped paying tax. But the market kept running, apparently with impunity.
Senior officials of KMC said that the building plan was sanctioned in 1985. KMC later gave permission to run the G+4 building did not give any licence for the mezzanine floor.
After the Trinamool Congress government came to power, it too did not take any initiative to give notice to the market complex, which did not have adequate firefighting equipment.
Tarak Singh, TMC mayor in council, said he had instructed the municipal commissioner to invigilate all private markets under KMC. "We have identified some private markets in Ultadanga Bazar, Jadubabur Bazar, Shyam Market near Rammandir, Srimani Market, Charu Market and Burrabazar which do not have proper firefighting equipment. I have instructed municipal commissioner Khalil Ahmed to visit these places and place a report within three days," Singh said.
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