Will Surat Fire also end up being a ‘fake wakeup call’ for bureaucrats?
“Hundreds of coaching centres in Jaipur are operating illegally in the unsafe buildings” – the front page headline in a leading newspaper sent a shock down my spine.
As I googled “Surat Fire” to read updates from other cities too, I came across some irresponsible statements from the high officials -
“Delhi Fire Department is planning to conduct audits of coaching institutes for checking the adequacy of fire safety measures.”
“Maharashtra Class Owners’ Association issues guidelines on fire safety to 2,000 coaching centres around Mumbai.”
“Odisha Fire Services Department will soon raid the coaching institutes to examine whether the concerned buildings are running with or without Fire NOC.”
22 innocent students of art and craft coaching institute have sacrificed their lives after the fire broke out in a four-storeyed commercial complex in Surat.
However, Government officials are still engrossed in planning raids and issuing guidelines rather than taking stringent actions right away.
If these audits and raids were conducted before to ensure due compliance, those students would be alive today.
How long are the officials going to ‘warn’ the culprits?
During an audit of commercial complexes by the fire department, a show cause notice is issued to those owners who haven’t obtained NOC from the department or don’t possess sufficient fire-fighting measures. They are also warned not to commit these mistakes again; else their buildings can be sealed.
However, the officials don’t follow up or review to check if the building owner has now complied with the rules. In the absence of any strict rules, the building owners keep ignoring the requirement of Fire NOC or availability of adequate fire extinguishers in the premises.
Did similar past incidents ring an alarming bell in Government’s ears?
In 2017, a fire broke out in the narrow streets of Jalandhar which took away the lives of 17 people. In 2009, Indian Oil Corporation’s giant tank, situated in Jaipur, caught fire which resulted in 12 deaths and over 300 injuries.
Several other incidents like these have happened in almost every part of India due to the negligence of the government officials in ensuring that every building possesses enough fire safety measures for an emergency.
After every incident, a committee is set up to investigate and provide its findings. However, as the intensity of the event reduces, the recommendations and conclusions are overlooked, until another incident happens somewhere.
Are current equipment or measures capable enough to fight and control the fire?
“The ladders were too short to rescue the children from the fourth floor”, quoted a 14 years old rescuer who jumped from the third floor to save his life.
Also, the fire tenders took considerable time (about 45 minutes) to reach on the spot, due to which blaze became uncontrollable.
This incident raises a critical question – are current fire-fighting measures available with Government insufficient for these dangerous incidents?
The fire department has often been helpless in fighting the fire – sometimes due to unavailability of water tenders or incapability of the firemen in operating the advanced equipment. Due to these reasons, the fires have blazed out, resulting in massive destruction of humans, properties and resources.
However, amidst these enquiries and plannings, the bigger question still remains unanswered - Will Surat Fire also end up being a ‘fake wakeup call’ for the people in power? Only time will see if we can find an answer to this.