1.37 lakh sq ft gutted in fire
State government hopes to set up temporary offices in unused space within GT Hospital and Cooperage telephone exchange buildings
The cinders having been extinguished, it is now time to take stock of the damage. Last afternoon, the state government finally surveyed the Mantralaya premises to determine the exact area of space ravaged by the fire. A panchnama of all the floors was conducted by engineers and other officials, who arrived at the figure of 1.37 lakh sq ft.
The need of the hour is space in which temporary offices can be set up. The issue came up for debate at the state cabinet meeting in Vidhan Bhavan yesterday, and the ministers finally zeroed in on the vast space on the premises of the Gokuldas Tejpal Hospital which has been lying locked up and unused for years, as it is stuck in litigation.
Permission for use of the space will now be sought from the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court. While the hospital premises offer 70,000 sq ft for the substitute offices, part of the remaining 67,000 sq ft needed will possibly be found in the Cooperage telephone exch-ange building owned by MTNL, located close to Mantralaya. The two floors which lie vacant in the building offer 30,000 sq ft space.
PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal chaired a meeting with his subordinates and ordered them to set up temporary offices. Teams of officials comprising a secretary, a deputy collector, a tehsildar and two officials from the gutted departments were put on the job.
An official who recced the building said that while the third and second floors were largely intact, water had seeped down from the gutted fourth, fifth and sixth floors, which was damaging computers and files and other documents. While the water was necessary to cool the building, it was damaging government papers and other material, said the official.
Though CM Prithviraj Chavan is now occupying his Vidhan Bhavan office, he is said to have instructed PWD officials to arrange a temporary office for him in the Mantralaya annexe by Monday, as this part of the building is relatively intact. Perhaps to make a point, he insisted that the cabinet meetings continue to be held in Mantralaya.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar met Chavan and his cabinet yesterday. He is reported to have spoken in support of going in for total reconstruction of Mantralaya, saying the 50-year-old building had sustained serious damage in the fire. He advised that the reconstruction be carried out as a government initiative, and not a private one.