OUR nation’s obsession with with disaster was on display yet again yesterday, with flocks of onlookers gathering in front of Mantralaya to gape at the rescue operations. But 50-odd students from the National Social Service (NSS) branch of KC College, realising the urgent need to control these crowds, took it upon themselves to ensure that firemen and the police were able to carry out their rescue operations smoothly.
“People were curious about the fire that broke out at such an important state building, Office-goers, having finished work, were heading towards the railway station — this resulted in massive crowds. With a petrol pump just next to the burning building, the fear that the blaze might engulf the petrol station was prevailing. Hence, we were instructing people to keep away and not get too close to the Mantralaya, and directed them to alternate routes.” said 18-year-old Sneha Vazirani, SYBSc student at KC College, and NSS student.
The students, who are formally trained in disaster management procedures, were attending an award ceremony hosted by their college when they heard about the fire. “During the award ceremony, information was trickling in that a major fire had occurred at Mantralaya,” said Pinkesh Patel, NSS student from KC College.
“The students came to me requesting that they would like to assist the rescue forces in this hour of crisis. The students have completed their disaster management programme, as part of the NSS curriculum and are well trained in handling large crowds. Hence I gave them the go-ahead,” said Satish Kolte, assistant lecturer of Chemistry, KC College and district coordinator of NSS.
The students who are also trained in managing casualty, then telephoned their tutor, Rajendra Lokhande, who is a part of the BMC disaster management cell. “Lokhande Sir informed the police personnel stationed outside the Mantralaya, and we started co-coordinating with the police force to maintain decorum, so that rescue authorities like the fire brigade, water tankers and the ambulances could easily find their way to the building,” added Patel. “I am glad that we were able to practically implement what we learnt and help the authorities in managing the massive crowds,” said Pooja Dave, NSS student.