Make In India event fire: With Rs 25 crore insurance money on the line, blame game on

Feb 16, 2016, 09:50 IST | Dharmendra Jore and Vinod Kumar Menon

Maharashtra government blames event management firm for fire at Girgaum Chowpatty; company director says they followed all the instructions of the fire department

Event management company Wizcraft International Entertainment, is at the centre of a controversy which is raging after the devastating fire that gutted the set of the Maharashtra Night programme, at Girgaum Chowpatty on Sunday night.

Government authorities who are in touch with officers probing the fire, told mid-day on Monday that prima facie,the event management company appeared to be at fault for several reasons, such as not taking the advice of the fire department, that fireworks must be avoided during the show.

Remains of the day: Debris being removed from Girgaum Chowpatty a day after the fire. Pic/AFP
Remains of the day: Debris being removed from Girgaum Chowpatty a day after the fire. Pic/AFP

“To us in Mantralaya, Wizcraft seems to be largely responsible for the disaster,” said a senior bureaucrat, requesting anonymity because the probe that CM Devendra Fadnavis had ordered Sunday night is still being conducted by the BMC’s fire department.

Similarly, the electrical contractor who did the wiring for the event, is also being probed for a possibility of short circuit that led to fire after gas leaked from the equipment that set off fireballs onto the stage. Sources said the probe should establish whether the electrical contractor did his job in haste and compromised on quality and safety matters.

The Maharashtra Night was part of PM Narendra Modi’s flagship ‘Make in India’ week now being held in the city at several venues, including the Bandra-Kurla Complex. The incident definitely marred the spirit of the week’s organisers, as many foreign and Indian dignitaries were present when the fire broke out.

Timely evacuation of all VVIPs and general audience did save the Maharashtra government some blushes, but the disaster is expected to remain a blot on much-touted, meticulously planned Make in India event.

Also read: Short circuit or firecrackers? Fire brigade probes cause of Make In India event blaze

Art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai said his team was not responsible for what took place after handing the stage over to the event management company.

Police speak
A top city police officer told mid-day that his department was not probing any conspiracy angle as they have not found any material to move in that direction. He said the police will file a first information report (FIR) only after the chief fire officer submits his report, which is expected Tuesday.

Opposition slams govt
The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party slammed the BJP government for the incident.

Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the incident was unforeseen and showed Maharashtra in bad light.

“The BJP government hasn’t initiated probes in many scams unearthed by us. However, we expect this government to thoroughly inquire in the fire,” he said.

NCP leader Dhananjay Munde said that his party would not do any politics over the matter as was done by the BJP in the Mantralaya fire some years ago.

Also read: Fire at Make in India event brought under control

“I hope the disaster is investigated and the guilty are brought to book,” he said.

Points to ponder
>> The event managers did not pay heed to the fire department’s advice that firecrackers should not be used. 
>> Electrical wiring was completed minutes before the event started. Proper care was not taken in the electrical job
>> Highly inflammable material like thermocol, fabric, plaster of Paris (PoP), plastic flex and plywood caught fire immediately and the sea wind spread it.


'It is unfair to point fingers'

Director of Wizcraft International Entertainment, which is being blamed by government officials for the fire, says the company abided by all conditions laid down by the fire department.

Sabbas Joseph, one of the directors at Wizcraft International Entertainment (Pvt) Limited, which managed the Maharashtra Rajani at Girgaum Chowpatty, and is being blamed by government officials for the fire, said that they had abided by all conditions of the fire department, and a day before the event, they had also participated in a mock drill at the venue.

The gutted stage and equipment. Wizcraft denied all allegations but did not comment whether it had been given strict guidelines that fireworks be avoided. Pic/Pradeep DhivarThe gutted stage and equipment. Wizcraft denied all allegations but did not comment whether it had been given strict guidelines that fireworks be avoided. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

“We participated along with disaster management, fire department, police and traffic department personnel. Unlike the original plan of keeping the firecrackers in and around the dias, as followed in other events, here the fire department officials asked us to move the fire crackers out of the venue, and we strictly followed these instructions. All fire crackers (mostly aerial fire works) that would have been used post the event, were kept on the beach front,” he said.

Wizcraft director Sabbas Joseph
Wizcraft director Sabbas Joseph

Speaking about state government officials accusing Wizcraft International for the fire, Joseph said they had kept to the conditions put forth by the Fire Department. He said, “It is unfair to point fingers at anyone at this stage. The fire department is yet to complete the investigation and is yet to submit the reason for the fire. It is too early to jump the gun and blame us, as we have abided by all the conditions put forth by the fire department.”

Asked if they had used pyrotechnics on the dias, Joseph said cold pyros were also used only after they were approved and checked by the fire department.

When told that Wizcraft claims to have followed norms laid by fire department including shifting of aerial fire works outside the venue, Chief Fire Officer Prabhat Rahangdale said, “We are in the process of investigating if all the check list parameters were followed at the ground level as per the stipulated norms by the organisers. Also, the report from the PWD/BEST electrical department is awaited. It will help ascertain any short circuit possibility, and the electrical report will also be considered before we submit our final fire report, which will take another two to three days time.”

Pratap Dighavkar, Additional Commissioner of Police (South Region) said, “We are awaiting the fire department’s ‘cause of fire’ report and our future course of action will depend on it. Meanwhile we have instructed the organisers that they should not use pyrotechnics on the stage or anywhere at the venue for the forthcoming events. Instructions have been given to the Public Works Department and BEST engineers to check electrical equipment and wiring before the start of the event.”

A senior IPS officer added that the local D B Marg police station will investigate the incident and the necessary case will be registered depending on the fire report. The officer, when asked about insurance claims, said, “Only acts of accidents are covered by insurance companies and if the probe hints at an act of negligence then police will file an FIR under appropriate sections against the organiser.”

Insured for Rs 25 cr
The organisers of the Maharashtra Night at Girgaum Chowpatty had insured life and property to the tune of Rs 25 crore. Sabbas Joseph confirmed that they have taken insurance coverage of a public liability policy for loss of public life due to any accident or terror strike from New India Assurance company. However, he said he was not aware of the premium paid. Attempts to speak to New India Assurance company officials did not yield any result.

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