Fire safety must come first

Here’s the one thing that irks us most about yesterday’s tragic fire at Mantralaya — the fact that no building in Maharashtra, not even one housing some of the state’s most powerful people, takes something as important as fire safety seriously.

As our reporters returned in the aftermath of the blaze, examining everything from possible causes and potential damage to how the hand of providence saved lives, most of the stories they came back with concerned the complete callousness with which safety rules were flouted. Apparently, the staff at Mantralaya had never been taken through a fire safety drill.

What this means is, in the long and colourful history of this seat of power, no one had ever seen fit to instruct those working within on how to escape in the event of such a scenario. In most countries, this would be a lesson taught to schoolchildren.

The damaging reports didn’t stop there. According to some people we spoke to, the safety alarm was not sounded. A number of hydrants were allegedly non-functional, while the entire safety apparatus had not been upgraded in over a decade.

To put things into perspective, this means the government has never bothered to follow safety laws it so wholeheartedly exhorts everyone in the state to adhere to. Worse, it means the agencies responsible for enforcing these laws have stood by and watched others ignore them. Will action be taken against those responsible for ensuring these rules are in place? Your guess is as good as ours.

We would like the powers that be, at Mantralaya, to consider a simple question: If the seat of governance can get away with such callousness when it comes to its own employees, how are we to assume it cares about the citizens it professes to care so much about? 

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