MiD DAY’s investigations have revealed that the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, which was brought into force in 2008, was not followed by the state government itself, which, ironically, was the body that introduced the Act.
From December 2010, the Act made it mandatory for every building in the state to conduct a fire audit and submit the report to the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) for approval and certification. However, not one of the 3,35,000 structures in Mumbai followed this rule, and one of the errant buildings happens to be Mantralaya.
S V Joshi, CFO for the Mumbai fire brigade, confirmed that the department hasn’t received fire audit reports from any residential or commercial occupants for approval, since the rule came into force in December 2010.
“The Act clearly mentions that the society should conduct the fire audit by hiring licenced government approved fire contractors, who would then submit their findings to the CFO. The CFO is to deploy a fire officer from the area to inspect the building, and only if all the fire safety arrangements are found to be satisfactory, fire safety certification is to be issued,” said Joshi.
Asked why no action had been taken against any of the defaulters, he said “Out of 200 fire officers in the city, only 75 officers are technically qualified to conduct inspections and certify the buildings for fire safety. It is humanly impossible for us to inspect each structure physically, as well attend to daily emergency calls related to fire, drowning and natural calamities.”
According to senior Mantralaya officials, the internal fire team attached to Public Works Department (PWD) would conduct regular fire drills in Mantralaya, they never bothered to conduct the fire audit. The last fire safety inspection with the help of the city’s fire brigade was conducted way back in September 2008, after which 32 points were recommended to superior authorities in Mantralaya.
Sanjay Dhanapurkar, the fire officer at Mantralaya confirmed that no fire audit had been conducted, and claimed that his department had not received any notification for the same.
S K Mukherjee, secretary (PWD), said, “I am in a meeting and cannot speak at the moment.” Attempts made to contact him on his mobile phone, later, did not yield any result.
M V Deshmukh, director of Maharashtra Fire and Emergency Services and fire advisor for the state government, said, “The Act talks of inspection and fire audit of structures which have come up after the Act was introduced in 2008.”
He added that violation of the guidelines could also attract a penalty of imprisonment from six months to three years.
Staffers have to submit duplicate service records
Over 100 employees have been asked to submit duplicate service reports to their department secretaries, as these documents are feared to have been destroyed in the fire. The records were stored in the establishment sections of the fourth, fifth and sixth floor of the building.
Dr P S Meena, principal secretary (Social Development) General Administration Department, said, “Those staffers whose service records have been damaged in the fire can submit their duplicate copy to the respective secretaries and keep a photocopy for their records. Details will also be obtained from the accounts and treasury department.”