Friday's fire raises fears that many Delhi movie halls ignore safety norms
George Iype in New Delhi
Lax fire safety drills, unsafe electric installations, lack of smoke
alarms and emergency exits have made many cinema theatres
in New Delhi virtual death traps in the event of a fire.
The Delhi Vidyut Board and Delhi police have nearly concluded
that the cause of Friday's fire at
the Uphaar cinema was due to an ill-maintained transformer installed
inside the theatre's basement.
The disaster has forced various Delhi government departments
to launch an intense drive to test the safety standards of Delhi
"We fear many theatres in Delhi are death traps as they hardly
observe fire safety norms," says Delhi Fire Services Deputy Chief Fire
Officer N K Batra.
According to DFS rules, Batra said
every movie theatre was duty-bound to train its staff in the all important
fire drill. "The staff is to be given mock fire drill exercises,
to use the fire extinguishers properly and to quickly move
crowds to the exit," he said.
But at Uphaar, cine-goers found the exit doors
blocked, which is a serious violation of the rules.
As per DFS requirements, there should be one exit for every
150 people in the hall. All exists should be kept unlocked while the film is being screened.
But even Delhi's elite Priya Cinema at Vasant Vihar with a capacity
to seat nearly 2,000 people has only three exit doors.
The Delhi Development Authority has stipulated that 12 metres
around the cine hall's premises should be kept vacant to ensure that
there is space for fire tenders during an emergency. But Priya
Cinema's nearest building is just 12 feet away.
"It is incredulous that many of these theatres are being
operated without observing the minimum specifications of fire
safety," says Additional Commissioner of Delhi Police Maxwell
"We have decided to launch a serious drive to ensure the
safety standards of Delhi cine halls," he told Rediff On
According to him, the theatre owners have to get certificates
from different government departments to finally acquire a no-objection
certificate and licence to run the shows.
Thus, the Delhi Fire Service has to ensure that each movie hall
keeps the fire safety rules with regard to fire extinguishers,
wiring, basement, fire alarm and a sprinkler system.
It is the job of the department of health to ensures cleanliness in the hall
while it is the responsibility of the Delhi Vidyut Board to check electrical fittings
and ensure that the transformer room is fireproof with natural
The excise department, which levies entertainment tax, has
to ensure that every safety standard is in order, that
the exit doors are unbolted and that no one is allowed to be seated
in the aisles.
"We have imposed these rules and regularly check the transformers
and electric wiring of the theatres. But it is likely that many
theatres -- with as many as seven shows daily -- do not care much
for crucial security details," says Delhi Vidyut Board chairman Navin Chawla.
The DVB has laid down strict norms for electrical installations in
theatres: The transformer should be serviced, dehydrated
and the oil used in the transformer should be as per the specified
norms; the transformer should be housed in a fireproof and waterproof
structure, adequately ventilated by outside air.
But with the tragedy at Uphaar proving that most of the theatres
have failed to observe the dos and don'ts of safety rules, many
movie-goers may now think twice before entering the city's unsafe
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