Govt orders fire audit of coaching centres, schools

Divisional administration Kashmir has ordered for conducting fire audit of all the private coaching centres and schools functioning across Valley including 150 in the summer capital.

The move comes a day after fire engulfed the four-storey building housing a coaching centre at the third floor, in Sarthana area of Surat in Gujarat. The deadly blaze left 20 students dead due to suffocation or falling off the windows in an attempt to escape fire.

The incident set alarm bells ringing for the J&K government about the safety of the students opting for coaching in the private coaching centres which has witnessed a mushrooming growth over the years in Valley.

Meanwhile, the divisional commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan said he has ordered to conduct the fire safety audit of all the coaching centres and private schools functioning in valley.

“The concerned deputy commissioners and the officials in the directorate of school education Kashmir have been directed to submit the report within three days,” Baseer Khan said.

There are around 550 private coaching centres in Kashmir including 150 in Srinagar alone and as many as 60,000 students opt for coaching in these institutes every year.

Also, there are over 2700 private schools functioning in Valley with an aggregate student population of more than six lakh.

The recent fire incident has raised concern about the safety of these students visiting these coaching centres and private schools. “Once the report is submitted by DCs and education department, further action will follow accordingly,” divisional commissioner said.

While the fire safety audit has been ordered for private schools and coaching centres, the condition in government schools is grim wherein the majority of the students are put to risk due to unsafe structures.

“A fire safety audit of government schools was conducted in 2016 when school buildings were torched by arsonista. Adequate arrangements were put in place to avoid burning incidents,” Khan said.

In 2016, 32 school buildings were set on fire after which the J&K High Court directed the Education Department to put in place all safety measure to safeguard the school buildings. Around 2939 fire extinguishers were installed in various schools.

The department had informed the high Court that water tanks, water bucket with sand deposits and sand iron buckets were placed in schools which will be put in use in case of any untoward incident.

“These arrangements are in place in many of these government schools but I have told them to conduct a fire safety audit of government schools as well,” Baseer Khan said.

As per norms, the private schools and coaching centres are given registration by the education department after checking all the credential including the NoC from the fire and emergency department. The facilities are reviewed after five years by the department.

“It is in the SRO that schools and coaching centres should have fire safety measures in place. But still we have reiterated the circular instructions to them regarding the same,” director school education Kashmir (DSEK) Muhammad Younis Malik said.