Is Gurgaon Safe In Hands of Fire Officer Who Does Not Believe in NBC, 2005?

Story on "Fire Officer of Gurgaon" in Progress. Please visit again soon ....

Senior Fire Station Officer Mr IS Kashyap does not believe in the minimum standards set by the Part IV of National Building Code, 2005. Is Gurgaon Safe in the hands of such an officer ...
Senior Fire Station Officer Mr IS Kashyap does not believe in the minimum standards set by the Part IV of National Building Code, 2005. Is Gurgaon Safe in the hands of such an officer ...
On September 30, 2016 Raheja Developers mass-blasted to hundreds of buyers in Raheja Atharva Group Housing project an unusual email which made startling revelations about the murky world in which the real estate developers thrive in collusion with top government officials. This unusual email from Raheja Developers had as attachments some documents filed in an ongoing case at the Honorable Punjab & Haryana High Court. We will not go into the specifics of the case documents, but we will provide some excerpts that expose very disturbing "life & death" conceptual & policy compromises; starting with the issues of Fire & Life Safety.
 
The width of the approach road to a Group Housing Society like Raheja Atharva (Sector 109, Gurgaon) is very important, and the National Building Code of India, Part IV: Life & Safety, 2005 mandates a minimum width of 12m.
NBC Code, 2005, Part IV, requires a minimum 12m road abutting the high rise building,
NBC Code, 2005, Part IV, requires a minimum 12m road abutting the high rise building.
The fact that the requirements of NBC, 2005 are the minimum requirements is made amply clear in Commentary on Part IV - Fire & Life Safety by G.B. Menon & J.N. Vakil, which states that "requirements of the Code should be adopted in toto for ensuring a fire safe design and construction of the building." "In toto" means "as a whole." This is further clarified in the Commentary of the NBC, Part IV, as "while the Code prescribes only the minimum standards of fire protection and fire safety of buildings, both in the interests of the occupants of the buildings and also in the public interests, nothing in the Part prohibits adoption of higher standards."

The Requirements of the Code are the MINIMUM required standards, and though you can have higher standards, you cannot have lower standards.
The Requirements of the Code are the MINIMUM required standards, and though you can have higher standards, you cannot have lower standards.
The problem with the Raheja Atharva residential complex is that width of the road, and width of the setback roads around the towers, is much less than 12m. Yet, the Fire Department issued part No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for Atharva project on 11 April 2014 & 09 July 2014. Once the buyers pointed this problem amongst others, the Fire NOC was not renewed in 2015  when it had to be renewed; as every fire NOC is valid for only 1 year as per Clause 19 0f the Haryana Fire Service Act, 2009. But on 23 July 2016 Mr IS Kashyap went ahead and renewed the Fire NOC with the explanation that "with regards to the passage of the fire tenders as contested in the petition (by the buyers) stands addressed as the width of the road was wide enough to accommodate fire tenders." Mr IS Kashyap did not specify what size of fire tenders he was referring to when he decided that the road was "wide enough."

Mr Kashyap found the road to be wide enough because a fire tender could pass; the width of the road, and that of the fire tender was not specified !
Mr Kashyap found the road to be wide enough because a fire tender could pass; the width of the road, and that of the fire tender was not specified !
Did Mr IS Kashyap have these fire tenders in mind?

Fire Tender??
Fire Tender??
Or did Mr IS Kashyap have this fire tender in mind?

Fire tender for Mr Kashyap??
Fire tender for Mr Kashyap??
Or did he have this fire tender in mind?

This Fire Tender??
This Fire Tender??
Mr Kashyap did not specify what size Fire Tender had he done his measurements with. Had he planned for the bigger hydraulic platforms that would be necessary in the future as Mr Kashyap discussed recently in a news report? It is to remove such confusion and imprecision that the NBC, Part IV, 2005 has mandated certain minimum standards like the 12m road. Relaxation of these minimum mandated standards is not possible, because if you start relaxing them then where do you stop? Can you relax standards by 5%? Or 10%? or 25%? or 50%? or 90%? Where is the floor, and when will one stop if you allow relaxation of the NBC, 2005 standards.

To be able to renew Raheja Atharva's Fire NOC even though it is not eligible for the NOC, Mr IS Kashyap in his Affidavit builds up an amazing subterfuge. He picks a few lines from the "Foreword" of the NBC, Part IV, 2005, and then twists the meaning of these lines. The specific passage that he quotes is,

"It is pertinent to mention that objective of the NBC (this Part) is to specify measures that will provide that degree of safety from fire which can be reasonably achieved. The Code endeavours to avoid requirements that might involve unreasonable hardships or unnecessary inconvenience of interference with normal use and occupancy of buildings, but insists upon compliance with minimum standards for fire safety necessary in public interest."

Mr Kashyap, in a sign of devilish genius, then couches the above passage out-of-context in such a way that it sound as if the Code is stating that it does not want to impose unreasonable hardships on the developers, and it finally insists on only just the bare minimum standards necessary for normal use and occupancy of buildings ..... And, then Mr Kashyap swiftly moves on to conclude that "in view of the same, grant of renewal of the Fire NOC has been recommended by the team of Fire department to the competent authority ...." With this strange logic and conclusion by Mr IS Kashyap, Raheja Atharva which should not have gotten the Fire NOC in the first place, now ends up having the Fire NOC renewed till 21 July 2017!!

By twisting the intent of the passage from the Foreword to the NBC, Part IV, 2005 ... Mr Kashyap find justification for renewing the Fire NOC of Raheja Atharva even though it was in violation of the minimum standards set by the Code.
By twisting the intent of the passage from the Foreword to the NBC, Part IV, 2005 ... Mr Kashyap find justification for renewing the Fire NOC of Raheja Atharva even though it was in violation of the minimum standards set by the Code.
If the full Foreword is read carefully, the meaning of the above passage is that "absolute safety from fire is not attainable in practice." Thus, the framers of the code have tried to strike a reasonable balance and drafted the code understanding the trade-offs. But, once the Code had been finalized, it set the base minimum standards, which could not be fiddled with. In fact, further down in the Foreword this is clarified as "nothing in this Part of the Code shall be construed to prohibit better types of building construction, more exits, or otherwise safer conditions than the minimum requirements specified in this Part."

Some lines from the Foreword of the NBC, 2005 code have been cherry-picked, and mischievously interpreted out of context, to mean as if the minimum standards of the Code can be relaxed at the whim and fancy of the Fire Officer.
Some lines from the Foreword of the NBC, 2005 code have been cherry-picked, and mischievously interpreted out of context, to mean as if the minimum standards of the Code can be relaxed at the whims & fancy of the Fire Officer; Not true.
Mr IS Kashyap is being too clever by half, and has clearly obliged Raheja Developers in a big way; to the detriment of the Life & Safety of the Residents taking possession and living the Atharva complex. The matter is not only about the 12 m road, but of many other violations which include Ducting, Ventilation, Water Curtains, Insufficient underground Water Storage Tanks, LPG Gas Storage, etc .... Mr Kashyap inexplicably ignored all these factors while renewing the Fire NOC for Atharva on 23 July 2016, but he was well aware of all these violations on 03 August 2015 when he listed all these objections in a letter to Raheja Developers, and refused to renew the Fire NOC till all these issues were addressed. See his letter of objections to Raheja Developers below.

Senior Fire Station Officer IS Kashyap knew that the NBC, Part IV, 2005 code had to be implemented in toto, and said so to Raheja Developers in August 2015. But, by July 2016, instead of getting Raheja Developers to address the issues, he had decided to change his interpretation of the Code !!
Senior Fire Station Officer IS Kashyap knew that the NBC, Part IV, 2005 code had to be implemented in toto, and said so to Raheja Developers in August 2015. But, by July 2016, instead of getting Raheja Developers to address the issues, he had decided to change his interpretation of the Code !!
This change in thinking of Senior Fire Station Officer Mr. Isham Singh Kashyap about the sanctity of the NBC, Part IV, 2005 is very worrying. Why would a Senior Fire Officer give Fire NOC to Raheja Developers, when it was clearly not to be given till some major & expensive works happened in the complex. For this we will have to look at Mr IS Kashyap in 2007. 

We believe that everyone should get a fair chance to start a fresh life after they have paid the price for the failings, if any. And, we should allow a person to move away from his sorry past to a better future. But, in such a grave situation where the matters of "life & death" of people is being compromised, it is also important to pay attention to something very important in Criminology called Recidivism. 

Recidivism, an important concept in criminology, is relapse into criminal behaviour.
Recidivism, an important concept in criminology, is relapse into criminal behaviour for which one has already received punishment.
Recidivism, one of the most fundamental concepts of criminal justice, means that if someone is caught doing a crime, and punished for it; chances are high that he or she will relapse into the same criminal behaviour again. Unfortunately for us, Mr IS Kashyap was suspended in 2007, and FIR registered against him for taking bribe from Vatika Group in exchange for providing a Fire NOC.

The problems of Raheja Atharva are manifold, and at many levels. First, the approved Fire Fighting Scheme is not NBC, 2005 complaint in some respects; which Mr IS Kashyap says very creatively as "Fire Fighting System installed by the Builder was found to be in order as per above code in parts." In parts !! While it should be in toto, or as a whole. And then, what is shown in the plans has not been not implemented on the ground by Rahejas! For example, some photographs taken in July 2016 in Atharva show that there is not enough setback area around some towers, and Fire tenders could not reach there in case of a fire. Further, the images taken in July 2016 show that mandatory ducting in Upper Basement is lacking, even though the approved maps show the ducting!!

In addition to overlooking the National Building Code of India, Part IV, 2005, Mr IS Kashyap has also dumped the Haryana Fire Service Act, 2009. In Section 15(1) of the  Act it clearly says that "Any person proposing to construct a building ... such as a group housing ... BEFORE the commencement of the construction, shall apply for the approval of Fire Fighting Scheme ...." Yet, he did not object when Raheja Developers Applied for Approval of Fire Fighting Scheme on 03 May 2013, even though the construction of Atharva had started on 29 July 2008!!

Before the commencement of the construction of the Group Housing such as Atharva, Raheja Developers had to apply for approval of the Fire Fighting Scheme as per the Haryana Fire Service Act, 2009.
Before the commencement of the construction of the Group Housing such as Atharva, Raheja Developers had to apply for approval of the Fire Fighting Scheme as per the Haryana Fire Service Act, 2009.
The hands of the Fire Department were tied because by the time the drawings came to them for approval, the building had already been constructed and was violating a lot of the NBC standards. It is amazing to see the audacity of Navin Raheja to start construction of Atharva on 29 July 2008 even though the sanction building plans had not been approved (approved on 24 March 2009), the Environment Clearance had not been obtained (obtained on 01 April 2009), and the Fire Fighting Scheme has not been approved (approved on 18 February 2014). It is probably the existence of officers such as Mr IS Kashyap that emboldened Mr Navin Raheja to start and go ahead with his construction - the law be damned. And, the tragedy is that Mr Kashyap is condoning the behaviour of Mr Raheja by defending him as ""getting approval of the Fire Fighting Scheme from the Fire Department is not applicable on the said department as this period (submission for fire fighting scheme within 90 days after approval of sanction building plans) is specified by the Town & Country Planning Department and same is required by them."

Mr Navin Raheja did the Bhoomi Poojan and started construction of Atharva Group Housing project even before the sanction building plans were approved, Environment Clearance was received, or Fire Fighting Scheme was approved.
Mr Navin Raheja did the Bhoomi Poojan and started construction of Atharva Group Housing project even before the sanction building plans were approved, Environment Clearance was received, or Fire Fighting Scheme was approved.
By the time the Fire Fighting Scheme came for approval to the Fire Department, the building had already been constructed, and all violations baked into it. The officers must have faced a very tough choice, and it seems that under some influence they capitulated. What this influence was needs to be the subject of a Vigilance investigation. If some public spirited citizen reading this post could guide us into filing CBI/Vigilance complaints, we would be eternally grateful.

It is but natural that if you go for approval of drawings after the building has already been constructed with violations, it is easier to manipulate the drawings than to change the buildings. And, that is what has happened. The drawings may "in part" be NBC complaint, but what is on the drawings is not there in the actual construction. And "in parts" even the drawings are not NBC complaint. For example, the distance between the buildings is not as per the NBC Code (or even as stated in the Zoning Plans). The minimum mandated green areas and open spaces have not been provided.

Further, the drawings that Approval of the Fire Department has been obtained are of 09 March 2010 (for project area of 14.812 acres) and NOT the latest one of 16 Nov 2012 (for project area of 15.612 acres). 

Today, the situation under Senior Fire Station Officer Mr Isham Singh Kashyap is really of "Andher Nagri, Chaupat Raja." Based on Mr Kashyap's erroneous beliefs about both the National Building Code & Haryana Fire Service Act, it is expected that Developers like Rahejas will make stupid statements like "It is nowhere mentioned in any of the subsection (of Haryana Fire Service Act, 2009) that NOC will not be granted, if the scheme is not approved." WTF. Does Raheja imply that no matter what the Fire Fighting Scheme they come up with, the NOC will have to be granted to them after the building is complete?

And, the classic and most stupid assertion by Raheja's that "it may kindly be noted that in modern days fire fighting systems are installed and executed in integration of the entire project as the require inter-dependence of various functions for proper execution of fire fighting system to safeguard the life of human beings. Therefore, it is virtually and technically not possible to design and execute fire fighting scheme in isolation stage wise constructions of project. Neither Fire Department nor Town and Country Planning have even taken it as mandatory provision for any of the township projects in Haryana." All this gobbledygook means is that builders can take part-occupation certificates and force possession on buyers, but buyers who take possession and live in the project having part-occupation certificate cannot expect to have working fire fighting systems. What a piece of crap.

Raheja's statement that basically says "go to hell" to buyers who expect functional fire fighting systems after having taken possession on part Occupation Certificates.
Raheja's statement that basically says "go to hell" to buyers who expect functional fire fighting systems after having taken possession on part Occupation Certificates.
All of Gurgaon has to seek Fire NOC's from the Senior Fire Station Officer, and if he starts ignoring the basic minimum standards as espoused in the National Building Code of India (Part IV), 2005, then we are surely headed for trouble. And, in fact, it has already led to a sorry state of affairs all across. An article published in Dainik Jagran in February 2016, based on information received via RTI, revealed that NONE of the Govt Buildings in Gurgaon (bar the Civil Hospital) had Fire NOCs!! And, it had a nice mug shot of Mr Kashyap.

Fire & Safety oversight in Gurgaon is so poor that none of the Govt buildings (bar one) have Fire NOC's, and are disasters wiating to happen.
Fire & Safety oversight in Gurgaon is so poor that none of the Govt buildings (bar one) have Fire NOC's, and are disasters waiting to happen.