Self-financed schools that have applied for regularization of additional construction work but are compliant with old fire-safety norms have sought provisional clearances so that they can reopen on June 13 as the summer vacations.

The request of the Self Finance School Management Association (SFSMA) to the commissioner of schools comes amid the ongoing crackdown by various civic bodies on schools and other premises for alleged violations of construction norms and fire safety measures in the aftermath of the Rajkot TRP Game Zone. fire that claimed 27 lives, including children.

More than 600 schools were sealed across the state for not having fire NOCs (NOC) and building use clearances (BUCs) during the fire-safety drive. Taking note of the matter, Gujarat Education Minister Praful Panseriya last week assured to discuss the matter with Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel.

“We…submitted that we don’t want to run schools out of buildings that are dangerous or those which don’t comply with fire safety norms. But we demanded that those schools that have fire NOC but whose applications for BUP (building use permission) or regularization of additional construction under Impact Fee Act are pending be allowed to open to students,” said SFSMA president Bharat Gajipara.

“We made a representation, stating that school buildings whose applications for regularization of additional construction or BUP for additional construction are pending but which are complaint with fire safety norms be given provisional approvals and be allowed to open at the owners risk after owners submit affidavit stating that they won’t use parts of the building awaiting regularization of BUP,” he added.

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He also said that a number of applications from schools seeking regularization of additional construction and BUP were pending for around a year. “The problem in Rajkot has exacerbated as some of the officers of the departments handling this work are in jail in connection with the criminal case registered after the TRP gaming zone fire,” he said. The SFSMA president highlighted that many school buildings that have been sealed did not require a fire-NOC as per safety norms of 2019, but that changed with the new norms that came into force in December 2023. “As per the 2019 norms, buildings that were 23 meters high or more required fire-NOC. But the 2023 norms made fire-NOC mandatory for buildings nine meters high and having 500 meters of built-up area. Such schools will need time to get fire NOC and the civic bodies are also taking their time to clear applications of such schools.”

Gajipara said the local bodies did not serve notices prior to sealing school buildings or parts of them. “Such a move can be justified in times of emergency. But sealing a building just because there is a store room in place of a bathroom would not be fair,” the president said. Giving the example of one of his own schools in Rajkot, the SFSMA president said, “The building of my school has BUP as well as fire NOC. However, I covered the terrace of my school building with a tin-sheet roof. Therefore, my building was sealed by the Rajkot Municipal Corporation.

This, despite, I having applied for regularization of that part under the Impact Fee Act around a year ago. After I furnished an affidavit that I won’t use that part of the building, the Rajkot Municipal Corporation broke the seal,” said Gajipara. Meanwhile, Rajkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) also made a representation to Rajkot municipal commissioner Devang Desai demanding that traders and businessmen should not be harassed during the ongoing drive.

“If someone has applied for construction completion certificate in 2019 and the application is still pending with the corporation, it is the corporation’s fault,” RCCI president VP Vaishnav told the media, adding, “We demanded that in this process, affected parties should be given reasonable time (to comply with norms) and that they should not be harassed.”

Meanwhile, Desai said the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) has formed a committee to process applications seeking fire NOC. “We are according priority to applications submitted by schools and hospitals,” the municipal commissioner said, adding, “Around 440 premises were sealed as of Sunday evening and of them, around 200 had applied for required clearances. We have already allowed seals of around 120 to be broken. That said, we won’t allow premises which don’t meet safety norms.”

He said that RMC is seeking guidance from the state government to process applications seeking various approvals.

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