Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 13:
The closure of Ravi Talkies, among the last surviving links with Bhubaneswar of yore, yesterday could well mark the beginning of a gradual withering away of the already small number of cinema theatres in the state if the Odisha Fire Services has its way.
Ravi Talkies had to close down after it failed to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NoC) from the Odisha Fire Services Department.
It is a classic case of the left hand of Odisha government not knowing what the right hand is doing. The closure of the Ravi Talkies is the result of the Fire Services Department ADG’s insistence on implementation of fire safety measure as prescribed in ‘National Building Code of India’.
All cinema halls in the state have so far been receiving their fire NoC, a must for renewal of their licences on a yearly basis, under the State Government’s ‘Cinema Regulation Rule-1964’ that makes implementation of fire safety regulations as prescribed in the gazette notification mandatory for all cinema hall owners.
But this year, the fire services department has refused to issue fire clearance if the hall doesn’t meet the National Building Code of India (NBCI). Ravi Talkies is not able to meet NBCI guidelines due to its older structure.
As per the authorities of the hall, the law clearly says that NBCI guidelines won’t be applicable for buildings constructed before the law came into force. The gazette notification of September 1997 by Odisha government makes it mandatory for hall owner to make fire safety preparations as recommended by Odisha Cinema Act-1964, without which their licenses can’t be renewed.
The Fire Services ADG, however, insists on putting in place fire safety measures as per the ‘National Building Code of India’, which Ravi Talkies was not able to meet. While the NoCs were issued by district level Fire Services officers earlier, it comes directly from the Fire Services Department headquarters at Cuttack these days leading to confusion and raising suspicion over the department’s moves.
“Every year, we take fire safety measure as prescribed by Government. The fire service officials inspect our preparedness and give us a NoC, which is essential to get our license renewed every year. It is surprising that we didn’t get the NoC from Fire Services Department even though all necessary systems were in place,” said Chief Manager of the hall Ashok Mohapatra.
The new insistence of the Fire Services Department is in clear conflict with the government’s gazette notification. But that has not deterred the former from asking for compliance from theatre owners. A good number of theatres, especially the older ones among them, may have to go the way of Ravi Talkies. This is bound to have serious financial implications for the Odisha film industry.
The Odisha Cinema Halls Owners’ Association is mulling moving the court against the decision.