The Chief Minister has referred to last week’s blaze at Mantralaya as an accident, apparently. When asked by reporters about the possibility of someone being held responsible, he said he would prefer to wait for the official enquiry to be completed before responding. Going by how things have worked in the past though, it’s safe to assume department heads consider their positions to be as safe and secure as they were before the fire. After all, we live in a state whose Home Minister once referred to the terrorist attacks of 26/11 as a minor incident of the sort big cities ought to be used to.
Let’s assume, for a minute, that the fire happened elsewhere. In Kolkata last year, 89 people were killed in a blaze at AMRI Hospital. The state government responded almost immediately by arresting six board members for culpable homicide. The government held that the directors were responsible for the well-being of those at the hospital, thereby feeling the need to hold them accountable. Using that yardstick, it’s hard to figure out why the government of Maharashtra finds it impossible to place the blame on any department responsible for the well-being of people working within its premises.
We would like to reiterate that last week’s fire was no ordinary accident. It claimed five lives and destroyed property and information that may take ages to recover. As citizens whose taxes are used to ensure the seat of governance functions smoothly, we deserve answers. If this were to happen at a private building, would the government dither at the time of finding out who was responsible?
It reminds us of one of the Commandments that appear towards the end of George Orwell’s allegorical novella, Animal Farm: All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.