mid-day editorial: They should've known not to play with fire

The Maharashtra government has not set the best example when it comes to following safety regulations, as is clear from the mid-day investigation into Sunday’s fire at the Make In India event at Girgaum Chowpatty.

Yesterday’s front-page report revealed several procedural lapses — the most significant one being no apparent record of a fire audit. If a proper audit had been conducted, as claimed by the CM, and the compliance report submitted, the blaze could probably have been averted. In addition, despite the courts strictly saying no to fireworks or pyrotechnics, they were used at the event.

This blatant breach of rules is shocking at a government event. So often, we see establishments that flout the law with impunity. Fire audits are not carried out for years, fire exits are blocked or not functional, fire extinguishers are defunct and flammable material is seen strewn around — all this results in deaths despite the best efforts of firefighters.

While one can only be thankful that there were no casualties or serious injuries at Girgaum Chowpatty last Sunday, it is chilling to think of what could have transpired if the crowd had panicked or the evacuation had gone wrong. It is worth remembering that we, as a people, have a very poor record of disaster management. It is our tendency to let disaster occur first and then tackle it. Instead, we need to focus on prevention and then putting systems into place in case disaster strikes.

We can now only hope that the state has learnt the lesson it needs to from this incident. That the next time, everything goes by the rule book, that power and money are not allowed to override basic safety norms. The state may not have led by example so far, but it certainly can make an example of this disaster and punish those responsible. Only this will act as a deterrent to anybody taking a lax and laidback approach to such serious aspects. The crores pouring into the Make In India initiative will have little meaning if there is no adherence to laws at ground level.

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