Mumbai: Haj House Hosting Pilgrims Without Conducting Fire Audit, Raises Concerns

Mumbai: Haj House Hosting Pilgrims Without Conducting Fire Audit, Raises Concerns

Information accessed through an application under the Right To Information (RTI) law has revealed that the building, which has rooms for pilgrims who use Mumbai as a transit point, has not completed the mandatory fire audit.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Tuesday, May 07, 2024, 10:13 PM IST
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Haj House |

Mumbai: With the annual Haj pilgrimage starting later this month, members of the Muslim community have raised concerns about the absence of a fire safety audit at the multi-storeyed Haj House near Crawford Market which thousands of pilgrims will use.

Information accessed through an application under the Right To Information (RTI) law has revealed that the building, which has rooms for pilgrims who use Mumbai as a transit point, has not completed the mandatory fire audit. Community members have raised concerns about the lack of a fire safety audit, especially after several fires in high-rise buildings in Mumbai.

In its reply to the application by Saeed Hameed, a journalist and resident of Kurla, the Haj House administration said that a fire audit will be done after the upgrade of the building. 'The work of overhauling, upgrading, and maintenance of the building is under progress, a fire audit of the same will be done after the above work', says the reply.

The building, constructed in 1986, has 18 floors, with halls on the lower floors and 'VIP' rooms and apartments for senior Haj Committee officials on the top floors. There are around 200 rooms for pilgrims on the lower floors. After the end of the Haj season, the rooms are given to patients who come to the city for medical treatment, and their relatives, at subsidised rates.

The facility is managed by the Haj Committee of India which is part of the Ministry of Minority Affairs. Most states have their own Haj Houses and the accommodation facilities in Mumbai are used by pilgrims from Maharashtra - 22,000 this year - who use the city as a transit point for Jeddah, the gateway to the holy cities of Makkah and Medina in Saudi Arabia. The Haj pilgrimage will be held between May 14 and 19, but flights to the cities will start this month.

The building is undergoing extensive renovations after termite infestation and damage in some of the foundation pillars. There are also allegations that the restoration work is being done without following government norms on tenders and bids. Officials at the Haj House did not respond to phone calls and messages for a comment on the allegations.

Shaikh said that the hazard of fire is accentuated by the use of the large hall on the lower floors as a wedding venue. "At any time, dozens of cylinders of cooking gas are stored near the hall by food caterers. There are weddings almost every day. If there is a fire, the building is not equipped to ensure the safety of the hundreds of people staying in the rooms above," said Shaikh.

According to Shaikh, the wedding venue has been created in the space reserved for an auditorium in the original plans of the building. "There are plenty of wedding venues in the vicinity, in Nagpada and the Islam Gymkhana, among others.

However, there is no large venue for cultural and educational events. Muslims in Central Mumbai have to go to Nehru Centre, Worli, and the Y B Centre in Nariman Point for a big event. There are no venues for Mushaira and other cultural events," added Shaikh.

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