mid-day editorial: Wrap up fire probe transparently

Chief Fire Officer PS Rahangdale has said he will finish his probe into last week’s fire at the Make in India event at Girgaum Chowpatty. Meanwhile, a series of reports by this newspaper has already exposed several serious procedural lapses. Worse, this paper’s first report drew contradictory responses from the three sides involved in the incident — the state government, the fire department and the organisers.

This has clearly exposed that the probe is in a mess. While the state maintains that the venue was audited thrice in the days leading up to the event, the organiser Wizcraft says one mock drill was conducted. Caught between the two versions, and with no record of a fire audit or a compliance report to show that all the instructions in the No Objection Certificate (NOC) were followed, the fire department seems to be indulging in some old-fashioned damage control, saying the probe will be delayed.

While there is no reason to believe a cover-up is in the works, questions will be asked if the fire department further delays the report. Make in India is the PM’s pet project and the fire happened in the presence of the CM Devendra Fadnavis, besides other dignitaries.

Some people rightly said after the blaze that accidents happen, but it’s how it is handled that matters more. But ‘handled’ should include the identification of the cause and fixing of accountability. This is even more significant because the Bombay High Court — which had questioned the rationale of having this event on the beach — will no doubt be watching the proceedings closely.

Thus, the onus is on the fire chief to wrap up his probe in a professional manner after taking the statements of everyone involved. And the findings should be made public immediately after. For, in matters of public interest, transparency is the biggest trust-builder. Especially in the current incident, which we are sure, is being watched by everyone, from the prime minister’s office to the courts to the common man.

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