Three top fire officials lost their lives, because of the apathy of the government, the apathy of the bureaucrats, who failed to do enough to protect them in spite of every major mishap being another reminder that things need to change.
For firemen in Mumbai, the job doesn’t just involve fighting fires; these men have saved lives during terrorist attacks, building collapses, and have even saved lives in the sea. When such talent and bravery is lost because of lack of proper equipment, protective gear or because timely medical treatment was not provided, then the whole city should be ashamed. That this has happened in Mumbai, one of the most developed cities in the country, is a matter of grave concern.
What do the firemen get in return for their work, for the hardships and the risks they take to save lives and, at times, property? Not even insurance, it would seem. Even after the Kalbadevi blaze claimed three bravehearts, the government is yet to provide individual insurance cover to firefighters.
The firemen were playing by the rules, but ended up losing their lives without the right equipment and support. Why can’t they be given better uniforms, better masks, and better tools when they go for firefighting? Why does the government not give them equipment that will help them gauge the situation better?
It is well and good to call our firemen heroes, but we must remember that they are after all mortal humans, with neither superhuman powers nor fancy gadgets to protect them. The least the authorities can do is provide them with basic lifesaving equipment.
There is a need to formulate a policy to protect firefighters and provide them with better infrastructure. The government may declare compensation in such cases, but that is not always the answer. Instead, if the same money is spent to create a better support system for firefighters, fewer lives will be lost. One hopes the government listens and wakes up finally.