PG fire tragedy: Chandigarh Police arrest man who runs the facility

Chandigarh, February 23

Chandigarh Police has arrested the man who runs the paying guest accommodation in Sector 32 here after a fire at the premises claimed the lives of three young women, who were all students.

A senior police official said the owner of the house where the fire broke had sub-let it to Nitish Bansal and another person, who were running the PG facility, which was allegedly violating fire safety norms and other rules.

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Bansal was arrested late on Saturday night, Inspector Baldev Kumar, Station House Officer of Sector 34 police station, said.

Bansal, his partner, and the house owner have been booked by police under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including those relating to culpable homicide not amounting to murder, act endangering life of others and disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant.

“Further investigations are on and we will arrest other accused too,” the SHO added.

Deputy Commissioner Mandeep Singh Brar ordered an inquiry into the fire incident and the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (South) has been directed to conduct a thorough probe and submit a report at the earliest.

Official sources said authorities were planning to launch a big drive to check such PGs violating rules and those that are functioning without registering themselves with the concerned authorities.

The fire claimed the lives of Pakshi (from Kotkapura, Punjab), Riya (Kapurthala, Punjab) and Muskan (Hisar, Haryana), all aged between 19 and 22, police had earlier said.

One of the survivors of the horrific incident, Jasmeen Kaur, 18, from Moga in Punjab, saved herself by jumping from the first floor of the house.

Jasmeen, her relatives and some other girls staying at the PG recorded their statements before the police regarding the accommodation where they were staying.

Recalling the ordeal while speaking to the media on Sunday, Jasmeen said she was sleeping when her friend Pakshi did not care about her own safety and first went to wake her up telling her that a fire had broken out probably because of an electrical short-circuit.

As smoke filled up the congested floor which was partitioned by combustible material, Jasmeen told her to run towards the only narrow exit. Soon, the fire grew bigger and Jasmeen somehow managed to grab a chair to climb a nearly 7-feet high wall, jumped off and fell on a shed below and then subsequently onto the floor.

“When I came out, Pakshi was still inside. I was injured and waited for her. When I climbed the wall, I lost balance and fell down on a shed. Later, we could hear Pakshi calling out to us and a friend of ours tried to rescue those trapped inside, but there were flames all over,” said an inconsolable Jasmeen, unable to come to terms at the loss of her friend and two others in the tragedy.

Being a weekend, she said most of the girls staying in the PG were out while some were still in college.

“There were just 4-5 of us on the floor. There was only one narrow exit and that too was blocked by fire. There were panelling on all sides and it was soon engulfed by fire,” she said.

Pakshi’s father was inconsolable. “She gave her life while trying to save the life of her friend. May be, this was God’s will,” he said.

The floor in which the fire broke out had polyvinyl chloride (PVC) partitions and other combustible material with some rooms having a common entry.

Officials of Chandigarh’s Estate Department said they have sent notices to nearly 100 PG facilities in the last four months. They point out that people hesitate in registering their premises as PG facilities.

With Chandigarh being a hub to several educational and coaching institutes, the Union Territory administration had in 2006 framed rules to regulate functioning of the PGs. The business is thriving in the city’s sectors including Sector 32, 34, 35, 43, 21 and 22. PTI

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