With Rs 581 crore sanctioned for it in the annual budget, Rs 100 crore more than last year, the Mumbai fire brigade can expect some reforms this year. At a time when firemen are being pivotal in controlling the blaze at the Deonar dumping ground, the BMC has made provisions for 16 new fire engines, a fire command centre at Mankhurd, personal protective equipment worth Rs 46.75 crore and more. But some officials want the civic body to also invest in recruitment and technology.
The civic body presented a mammoth budget of Rs 37,500 crore on Wednesday, a 10% hike from last year. The thrust was on healthcare, services to the urban poor, roads and solid waste management. Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta in his budget speech also quoted the welfare of civic employees as a priority and a hefty sum has been kept aside for salaries and benefits to civic officials.
Rs 581 crore has been set aside for the fire brigade as opposed to Rs 471.29 crore last year. As part of the new proposals to be undertaken in 2016-17, 16 new fire engines will be commissioned. They will replace the old, outdated ones at a cost of Rs 16.65 crore. Rs 10.94 crore has been assigned for the development of command centres at Borivli, Vikhroli and Byculla. They are expected to be complete by December.
“In order to provide maximum safety to firemen on duty, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including fire resistant uniform for which an amount of R46.75 crore has been proposed,” said Mehta in his budget speech.
Rs 31.96 crore will be spent on buying 17 Quick Response Multipurpose vehicles, three 68m turntable ladders for R32 crore, and a good R65 crore has been set aside for the proposed Integrated Command and Control System at Byculla.
However, some current and former officials feel they should have allocated sums for other areas.
“I don’t know why they are investing so much in PPE. Instead they should invest more in getting modern communication equipment. In times of emergencies, it is communication that is crucial. Besides, there is no separate scheme for group insurance in place yet. As of turntable ladders, they are rendered obsolete in narrow spaces and at high rises where the wind velocity is tremendous. Instead they should invest in mini fire engines that are the need of the hour,” said Pratap Karguppikar, ex-CFO.
Uttam Bhagat, station officer at Mankhurd fire station said, “I expect them to invest in recruitment. Sometimes firemen work for 14-15 hours at a stretch. We need more manpower. Also, we need more ambulances and a separate insurance for firemen.”