All government schools and PU (pre-university) colleges in Karnataka must follow all guidelines for fire, emergency and building safety henceforth with no exemption, a committee constituted by the state government has said. The previous guidelines mandated only private aided and unaided schools in the state applying for NOC (no objection certificate) and/or seeking renewal of recognition to adhere to the safety rules — government schools were exempted.
A 17-member committee headed by MLC SV Sankanur and comprising eight MLCs submitted its report to the minister for primary and secondary education BC Nagesh on Wednesday.
Among the recommendations are: reduction in fee for obtaining NOC and ensuring time-bound responses to NOC applications to facilitate schools and PU colleges to follow norms.
The report focusses on implementing the Supreme Court guidelines on school safety that came in the wake of the 2004 Kumbakonam School fire tragedy where 94 students died after a fire broke out in a private school. It also takes into account the National Building code and National Disaster Management guidelines.
Comments Arun Shahapur, committee member who has represented the Karnataka North-West Teachers constituency: “It was mandatory for private schools managements to get a no-objection certificate from the fire and emergency services department and the public works department to start new schools or renew their recognition. In Karnataka, there are over 80,000 schools and just six fire zones. Schools had to shell out Rs 20,000 per year to avail this certificate. It is also known that the Public Works Department has a severe shortage of staff and hence getting a certificate meant a long wait. Schools expressed their opposition. These concerns were taken into consideration while giving recommendations.”
“Previous guidelines were targeted at only private schools because there is no renewal of recognition for government schools. Now, the new recommendations apply to all schools including government schools,” adds Shahapur.
Major recommendations made by the committee:
- State government must publish a guidelines manual to be followed by schools on fire and building safety.
- Existing guidelines given by the department of health, education, transport and women and child development to be followed to ensure adequate safety, emergency management, improvements in infrastructure.
- To avoid rush, district fire officers must be authorized to give NOCs to school buildings above 15 mts in height.
- No NOC for schools that have just ground floor and have been constructed in an area of less than 500 mts and have structures less than 6 mts in height. BEOs must conduct regular inspections to ensure fire safety norms are followed.
- For schools with area less than 500 sq ft, overhead tank capacity can be reduced from 10,000 lts to 5,000-2,000 lts.
- Authorise assistant executive engineers of PWD along with executive engineers to give stability certificate to avoid long waiting periods.
- Heritage schools exempted from gathering blueprint, old certificates etc.
- For newly constructed schools or established less than 30 years ago, safety certificates can be renewed once in five years instead of 10. Any school over 30 years old must renew every once in 5 years
- Government must ensure recognition certificates are renewed within three months of application.
- National building code, SC guidelines, Fire and safety norms must be followed in government schools and PU colleges as well
- NOC fee for schools in rural, panchayat, Hobli and towns reduced from RS 20,00 to a range between Rs 10,000 and Rs 5,000.
- NOC applications must be responded to within 45 days of application failing which it will be considered as accepted.
- State and district level redressal committees must be constituted with representatives from all relevant departments to address any concerns about fire or building safety in schools.