It was a night out that turned into a nightmare. As Pawan Attavar, an employee with a news publication firm and his friend,Vedha R Yadav left a pub on Church Street Friday last, Vedha lost her footing and fell down the stairs and through the window glass to land on the ground below. While she was killed on the spot, Pawan who tried to catch her, fell headlong out of the window too and was declared dead at the hospital he was taken to.
The freakish accident in the classy busy night hub of the city has left Bengalureans, accustomed to dining out , shocked and filled with questions about the safety of the many pubs and restaurants that are mushrooming in the city, occupying spaces in buildings that may not all have been built in accordance with the law.
The initial investigation has allegedly revealed that the building owner in this tragic case too had violated the bylaws. While this may take a while to prove, the sad fact is that two young lives have been lost and their families have no choice but to deal with the vacuum created.
The question then is what can be done to prevent such incidents in future. Brand guru, Harish Bijoor, suggests third-party safety audits of all commercial establishments in Bengaluru as an insurance against similar future accidents . “A third party private audit could add an element of neutrality and could be done by an organisation specialising in safety,” he suggests.
Mr N S Mukunda, a member of Citizen’s Action Forum, however, doesn’t believe this is the solution as there is no guarantee that a private auditing agency will not be as attracted by lucrative bribe offers as some of the babus, who are only too ready to approve faulty building plans in return for some moolah.
In his view, holding architects responsible for such accidents in buildings is a better idea. “This will act as a deterrent and architects will say no to violating the building bylaws for fear of attracting legal action,” he argues.
While observing that it is the sole responsibility of the building owner and the management of a commercial unit to ensure the safety of their visitors, he regrets that the building plans are often approved based on the bribe given. “There is a big hue and cry after an accident, which lasts for around ten days and then it all dies down. This allows the corrupt officials to get away with what they are doing,” he adds with disgust.
Although the BBMP now wants all rooftop establishments to erect a 5 ft tall perimeter wall for the safety of the visitors, the owners are reluctant to fall in line as such a wall could ruin the view from the rooftop, he notes.
Ask mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun about the Church Street accident and she has little to offer by way of concrete action. "I have ordered officials of the BBMP’s health wing, which issues trade licenses to commercial units, to inspect the building where the accident took place and see if it is guilty of violating the bylaws. Action will follow if it has," was all she promised.
Evict pubs operating in residential areas too, say residents
Once pubs and restaurants were confined to the commercial areas of the city, but now they are found snugly ensconced in residential areas too, blaring loud music late into the night , much to the discomfort of people trying to get a good night’s sleep in their homes.
As the complaints poured in and the police did little to curb the the entry of the pubs into residential localities, it was left to the high court to step in and order them to carry out surprise inspections to see if they were violating the prescribed noise levels.
But if the locals are to be believed, the pub owners are often tipped off about the so-called raid and take precautions to avoid being penalised. “The pub owners are tipped- off about the raid and suspend their music till the inspection is done. In the process they are let off as no violation is detected and the complaint by the residents is dismissed as untrue,” says one angry resident of an area, which has had to put up with the noise pollution from restaurants and pubs for a while now.
Demanding a permanent solution to the problem, many locals now want all illegal commercial units operating in residential areas to be evicted. “Even pubs operating in commercial areas should have a noise limit. They can’t keep playing such loud music till late in the night,” they maintain, although they believe it will be hard to break the collusion among the pub owners, officials of the pollution control board, the BBMP and the police and end the nuisance anytime soon....