Make In India fire: Vendors still awaiting dues two years after blaze

Feb 14, 2018, 09:20 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Vendors who took heavy losses in the fire that gutted the 2016 event are waiting to be paid, even as the organisers have moved on

The fire that gutted the stage at the event
The fire that gutted the stage at the event

Here's another example of how government apathy can be a magnet for disasters. Exactly two years ago, the state had blamed event organiser Wizcraft for the massive fire disaster that ate through a Make in India event in Girgaum. And yet, the authorities have selected the same company to host yet another big-ticket event this month — the Magnetic Maharashtra Convergence.

Also read - Make in India blaze: Mumbai police files FIR against event management company

While the state has rewarded Wizcraft with a contract for yet another mega event — the Magnetic Maharashtra Convergence — the company is yet to pay small business operators who lost their equipment. in the fire. Two years on, this reporter tracked down these businessmen and found that neither Wizcraft nor the state has bothered to pay them yet.

Living hand-to-mouth
This paper was the first to report how Sayed Akbar Hussain, 60, the proprietor of Super Crane services, suffered losses of over Rs 60 lakh at the Make in India disaster. The Wadala-based business lost two imported hydraulic cranes in the fire. The cranes got so badly burnt that they had to be towed away from Girgaum Chowpatty, where the event was held. Fast forward two years, and this loss now threatens to shut down the entire business. Sabhajeet Yadav, supervisor at the company, said, "On February 14, the organisers promised to pay the initial 50% through cheque, but the stage was engulfed in fire and no cheque was received."

Hussain, who lives in a rented accommodation with four children, is now worried about finances. Earlier, he would tide over his business expenses with the help of hydraulic cranes. The smaller cranes only fetch around Rs 2,000 per day, compared to Rs 14,000 for the hydraulic ones. The set designers had used the lower body of the cranes to lend support to the makeshift stairs to the stage. But the wooden stairs quickly caught fire, causing massive damage to the cranes. The fire damaged 14 tyres and the engine space in both cranes.

Two hydraulic cranes belonging to Sayed Akbar Hussain were so badly burnt that they had to be towed away from the venue at Girgaum
Two hydraulic cranes belonging to Sayed Akbar Hussain were so badly burnt that they had to be towed away from the venue at Girgaum

"We had to shell out nearly
R5 lakh just to move the cranes. I could not afford imported spare parts, so I got local ones. I have borrowed over Rs 60 lakh to get the cranes back in shape, but they are still not fully operational," he added. Interestingly, it was only yesterday that he finally got a call from Wizcraft, offering a settlement. "They never showed any interest in paying us in the past couple of years," said Hussain.

Mortgaged home, office
It is much the same story with Manish Mavani, proprietor of Sound and Lights Professionals, which was commissioned to instal the entire trussing system used to suspend the lighting on cranes. They had also put up sophisticated sound systems for the event. They lost equipment worth Rs 10 crore in the fire. As per his insurance policy, the onus of compensation falls on the event organiser — Wizcraft.

Mavani said, "The equipment was less than two years old, and had been procured against heavy loans from banks on high rates of interest. Till date, I haven't been compensated for my losses. I had to take fresh loans and mortgage my house and my office. I had to take credit from the market just to keep my commitments for other events that were slated soon after this incident. "I ran from pillar to post, and followed up repeatedly with Wizcraft, requesting financial assistance for the loss, but they bluntly refused. They said they were not liable." "It is unfortunate that even after the fire department held Wizcraft responsible for the fire and an FIR was registered, the state still approved Wizcraft for Magnetic Maharashtra, on the recommendation of CII," he said.

Noted art director Nitin Desai also had to incur losses of over Rs 4 crore in the fire. He said, "The government should take the initiative and ensure that small businesses like ours are duly compensated for losses." Desai claimed that during a recent meeting at Mantralaya, where all the aggrieved parties, CII representatives, and Wizcraft executives met Industries minister Subhash Desai, it was learnt that only a public liability policy was taken by the organiser and the entire event was not insured. Instead of taking responsibility for the losses, the event organiser and CII launched into a blame game.

"I have given time to the authorities, but other than false promises, nothing has come our way. We will have no option but to take the concerned agencies to court."

Mohan Gawade, head of media for CII in Mumbai, directed this reporter to a PR agency, which did not respond till the time of going to press. Despite repeated attempts to contact Wizcraft, no one was available for comment.

 

Pay them, says Prabhu
Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce and Industry, said, "The very concept of Make in India was to support entrepreneurs and young talents. If a mishap occurs at such an event, then the onus is on the state to ensure that small business players are compensated." He added, "I told Industries Minister Subhash Desai to take up the matter with the CM, and ensure that the businessmen are compensated for their losses before Magnetic Maharashtra begins."

Rs 10cr Losses incurred by Sound and Lights Professional
Rs 4cr Losses incurred by ND Studio proprietor Nitin Desai
Rs 60l Losses incurred by Super Crane services

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