Amidst rising concerns about safety of children in schools, the Delhi government’s Directorate of Education (DoE) claimed before the Delhi High Court that it has been working towards making all schools fire-safe while terming as “vexatious” the allegations made in a PIL that the schools lacked fire and structural safety.
In an affidavit filed before the court on Friday, the DoE said it has in consultation with Delhi Fire Services identified Delhi Government schools which do not have fire safety certificate and added that since with respect to structural stability certificate, Public Works Department (PWD) is the executive agency for construction of Delhi Government schools, a letter dated April 3, 2018 has already been written to it for issuance of structural stability certificate.
It said it has also written to PWD on April 10 to remove infrastructural deficiencies in 38 schools which are yet to obtain fire NOC.
The DoE said so in response to a PIL filed by Kush Kalra alleging that even as the Supreme Court had in 2009 issued directions for all schools in India to have fire safety and structural stability certificates, the schools in the city were lacking in both and lives of students continued to be at risk.
He had accused the Delhi government, DoE, Fire Service Department and the PWD of turning a blind eye towards fire and structural safety of school buildings.
While terming the allegations ‘false’ and ‘friviolous’, the DoE in Friday told the court that in compliance of the directions passed by the Supreme Court in 2009 in case titled Avinash Mehrotra vs UoI and Ors, it had issued a circular on March 3, 2011 stipulating fire and life safety provisions in school buildings.
Kalra, however, said issuing a circular is not the solution and added that DoE’s claims in the affidavit were contrary to the reports of Delhi government’s disaster management team finding live wires dangling in the classrooms, expired fire-extinguishers during its inspection in some private and government schools in east Delhi last week.
Meanwhile, the DoE’s affidavit said as per the information collected from Delhi government schools and Delhi Fire Service Department, of the 725 government school buildings, presently, 463 have been issued valid fire NOC while 198 have applied for renewal of fire NOC.
Of the remaining 64, the fire department has conveyed shortcomings like width of staircase, width of classroom gate in 38 schools while 26 do not have the feasibility to be issued fire NOC.
It also said that of the 208 government aided schools, 103 have valid fire NOC and rest do not have and have been asked to apply for the same at the earliest.
As for the private unaided schools, it said a valid fire NOC is a pre-condition for recognition from the Directorate.
The DoE also said that at present construction of additional classrooms is being undertaken in about 170 Government schools for around the last 2 years and renovation and construction in 54 pilot schools is still in progress for which fire NOC is pending as the same can be issued only when construction is complete.
It also said that for the construction of 10,000 additional classrooms is at advanced stage of approval with the competent authority while adding that fire NOC have to be renewed in every 3 years which is a continuous process.
It also submitted that the public grievance Commission had suo-moto taken cognizance of case of fire NOCs in all schools including schools of local bodies and upon regular monitoring issuance of fire NOC showed significant improvement with only 321 schools having the said NOC in 2011 to 361 in 2013 and 372 in 2014.