Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, February 26
Still smouldering under the tragic fire incident that claimed the lives of three paying guests on Saturday, chaos and confusion surface from the underbelly of city’s illegal paying guest businesses.
Posing as a student, The Tribune correspondent today set out for city’s top-rated five PGs (Paying Guest) accommodations on Google, only to find that two of them had packed up the business overnight, while the other two never really existed outside the virtual world.
In Sector 21-D, however, a girls’ PG functioned in full swing. The attendant at HNo. 3292 had almost sealed a rental deal of Rs 9,000 a month (food included) for an air-conditioned room with the correspondent. Measuring about 12 marlas, the two-storey, gated building had three entrances, only one though for the PGs living on the first floor. A specky, middle-aged woman spoke to the correspondent from the porch. “Who are you? What do you want?” she said, while the correspondent replied from the gate: “I am a PU student and need an AC room.” Skeptical, she asked the time period for which the room will be needed. “Two years,” the corresponded responded. “Independent chahiye?” asked the attendant. To which the reporter replied, “Bas AC hona chaiye. Can I see how big the room is?”
Hesitatingly, the lady opened the gate. On the extreme right side, a narrow staircase led to the first floor of the building. A small balcony ran along the boundary of the house and there were about four rooms on each side of the corridor. One room housed four girls. It was divided into two halves with partitions made of white-coloured plastic, wood and metal panels along with an attached sliding door. One half accommodated two girls.
It had two single beds and a small cupboard along the window, with no ventilation whatsoever. The other half of the room mirrored the same setup. “No window? No exit? No attached washroom?” asked the correspondent.
“There are four bathrooms on the backside. You can stay here, but you will have to share the room with another girl,” she added.
While there was on common kitchen on the floor, the doors of all four bathrooms, two on each side of the hall which the corridor opened to, were made of metal, wood and plastic too.
When asked about the safety measures, the lady offered an ultimatum, “Take it or leave it. We have 9 to 10 girls on each floor; no complaints so far.”
That ‘s the story of the third top-rated PG in the city. The first on the list, ‘Sai PG in Chandigarh’, at SCO 114-115, Sector 34-A, doesn’t exist.
There’s a commercial building there. A chaiwala near the building scoffed: “This has been rented out for a while. Khaali padha hai. PG yaha kaha dhoond rahe ho. Sector mein jaao, gharo mein, bhara hua hai. Ab khaali kar diye, wo teen ladkiya mara na; uskay dar se nai. Chapa padh raha hai, uske dar se. (This place is vacant. Instead of here, look for a PG in the residential area of the sectors. Maybe they have been vacated too, not because of the news about the three girls who died in fire, but because the administration is rumoured to be conducting raids!)”
Pushing our luck to Sector 34’s HNo. 1201, which said ‘open’ on the search engine,
We landed at a park-facing 12 marla accommodation. When asked if any rooms were available, a surly man responded, “There’s no PG here.”
With 4.4 stars and second on the best PG list, ‘Room Rent in Chandigarh’, with only a number and no address, didn’t answer the call despite repeated attempts.
Fourth on the list, Ansh Hostels, located in Sector 21 B, is nestled in two big bungalows (H No 1097-1098). One of the bungalows was locked.
In the other building, an elderly couple said, “That one was shut down because of the fire incident.” Another PG, Sethi PG Services, Sector 22, with no mention of a house number, had strangely moved to Sector 15.
Ousted from pgs, tenants spotted in parks
A group of four boys with six big bags, evidently harrowed, in a park at Sector 34-C, made for an unusual sight. “What are you doing here? Looking for a place to stay?” said the correspondent. “No. We’ve been kicked out from our PG. We are here since morning and we are looking for a PG,” the boys said. Aware about the PG fire tragedy, the boys said: “Everyone knows that 99 per cent of city’s PGs are not made as per building bylaws. Then why do institutes even tie-up with PGs?”
Talking about Allen Institute, one of the boys, on the condition of anonymity informed, “Half of the PGs of Allen have been sealed by the government. In Sector 34 Kumar Hostel was sealed this afternoon.”
When asked about where stranded PGs sought refuge, a boy shared, “Some have gone back home, some are staying with their friends and some PG home-operators have booked rooms for students in some hotels, until the storm passes.”
Even though the boys kept their identity concealed and refused to name the hotels in which PG children, kicked out from their sealed PGs were being sent to, they were of the opinion that PGs must be made as per building bylaws. “Prevention is better than cure. I wish the tragedy never happened, but we ignore simple steps to prevent such disasters such as installing fire alarms or fire extinguishers.” Dismayed over the reaction of PG owners, the boys rued over the sufferings of women who were told to vacate their PG accommodations after several of them closed down.
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