The Effectiveness of Delhi's Fire Safety Regulation Amidst Poverty, Ignorance, Corruption and Non-Compliance


  • John M. Cobin

    Professor of Economics and Public Policy
    1. Universidad Andrés Bello, Santiago de Chile
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    • Research sponsored by Facultad de Economia y Negocios, Universidad Andres Bello, Unidad de Investigación, Fernández Concha 700, Las Condes, Santiago. Special thanks to the Delhi Fire Service, government agencies and people in Delhi who provided a means for me to collect the data necessary for this study, notably Parth Shah and the Centre for Civil Society, which provided me with an office, a driver and an energetic research assistant, Miss Urvashi Kapuria.


This paper considers the effectiveness of fire safety regulation in Delhi, India. Ten theories are summarised that are used to explain why regulation does or does not work, or why fires might increase. Can imperfect markets generate institutions outside of the political process that produce reasonable results despite challenges of poverty, rising population density, social chaos, widespread corruption and non-compliance with rules? In Delhi, city fire departments, albeit hampered by dysfunctional or non-existent regulation, along with social and individual incentives provided by markets, have produced a relatively high level of safety.