The Democratic Front government appeared red-faced on Saturday after a second fire broke out at the Mantralaya, less than nine months after a devastating fire had destroyed much of the hallowed structure.
Even though the government hurriedly announced its plan to take the help of chemical experts to know the exact cause of the fire on the fourth floor of the state headquarters, questions remain over initiating action against the contractor who has been engaged to spruce up the building over the past few months.
On Saturday, Home Minister RR Patil, who paid a visit to Mantralaya soon after the fire, which fortunately did not cause any casualties, announced a probe to know the reasons behind the fire. But, when asked whether the state was going to initiate action against the contractor — Unity Constructions, for its failure in taking necessary precautions, he remained non-committal.
“After conducting a panchnama, the police will carry out routine investigations and we will also take help from chemical experts,” Patil said. Prima facie the cause of the fire appears to be the usage of monopole, a chemical used for strengthening of the slabs of the building that was damaged during the June 2012 fire, he said.
According to a senior official from Mantralaya, it was clearly a case of mishandling of chemicals. Enough precautions were not taken which led to the fire and the state government had to face another ignominy after the major fire in June last year, the official said, adding that the government should immediately suspend the contract given for the repair work.
According to the state government employees, who were present at Mantralaya in connection with preparations for the budget session of the State Assembly, beginning on Monday, March 11, the fire began at 12.09 pm and within minutes thick smoke was coming out from the fourth floor.
At the time of the incident 476 labourers engaged in the repair works and 59 Mantralaya staffers were present in the building. Five fire engines immediately rushed to Mantralaya along with 35 firemen and five officers who controlled the fire around 12.33 pm, sources said.