Civic apathy will lead to more deaths

Finding a place to eat in Mumbai is not a hard task. Be it any time of the day or night for any class of people. From a five-star hotel to a roadside stall, people are ready to eat anything, anywhere. But food stalls, hotels and restaurants end up flouting rules and norms. They rue that to set up an eatery, greasing palms of authorities is a way of life in Mumbai.

But the fire at a Grade-III hotel in Kurla — that claimed eight lives — casts an ugly shadow on this entire process. The fire department found four irregularities in the restaurant. To begin with, the eatery had constructed a mezzanine floor, for customers.

However, civic officials are now claiming that it was built after seeking permission. As per rules, any upper storey of a commercial structure needs equal permissions from the civic authorities as per the original plan. Surprisingly, this structure was in business for 12 years and no one seems to have noticed the flouting.

What was the BMC’s local ward office doing? Why was the Food and Drug Administration silent? The establishment had no fire extinguishers. Then how did the fire department grant permissions to run? Fire extinguishers are a basic requirement for any commercial outlet. After every mishap, the fire department blames the owners, but they fail to act against establishments flouting the law and lacking necessary permissions and documents. The Health department is responsible for inspecting the kitchens. But they manage to wash their hands off the situation, stating that the modifications were made after taking the necessary permissions.

Shockingly, the Kurla hotelier had attached a pipe to a domestic gas cylinder on the mezzanine floor, that connected the stoves and apparatus on the ground floor. When the government agencies claim to scrutinize all aspects, these incidents reveal that mandatory checks are not carried out. Agencies turn a blind eye to shortcomings, perhaps receiving bribes.

Unless the civic authorities show moral fibre and refuse permissions in such cases, miserable tragedies will continue to occur.

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