Mumbai: Restaurants inspection not before Dec 31 as BMC transfers hit fire safety drive
A year after Kamala Mills fire, shunting leaves ward-level health inspectors unsure of which places in their areas to inspect for fire hazards just days before New Year's Eve
Learning a lesson from the 2017 Kamala Mills fire, which killed 14, BMC chief Ajoy Mehta had this year instructed all ward officers to check the fire compliance of hotels and restaurants across the city. But, a sudden transfer of 10 medical officers of health on December 14 has come as a roadblock in the inspection. With New Year's Eve only five days away, the transferred officials are scratching their heads, wondering which establishments fall in their jurisdiction.
The Kamala Mills fire had occurred in the 1Above pub and Mojo's Bistro. During the investigation into the incident, it was found that the owners had violated the NOC given by health officers. Taking note of this, Mehta had instructed health officers to inspect major hotels and restaurants in the first week of December. But due to the sudden transfer of the medical officers of health (MOH) in 10 wards on December 14, the inspection has hit a roadblock. Additional municipal commissioner Idzes Kundan ordered the internal ward transfer of 10 MOH in wards G/N, A, T, F/N, N, H/E, R/S, P/S, P/N and K/W. The officers started duties in their new wards on December 20, but they lack information about hotels and restaurant in the areas, which has led to confusion.
During the investigation into the incident, it was found that the owners of 1Above and Mojo's Bistro had violated the NOC given by health officers. File pic
MOH are responsible for ensuring that the eateries are following BMC's safety rules. A restaurant or hotel can function only after getting NOC from the department. Also, MOH has to keep checking the fire and infrastructural safety measures taken by these eateries. The officials can serve notices and even give instructions to close down the eateries. Speaking to mid-day, one of the MOH said, "We've been instructed to inspect the eateries, but this is a new ward, and we don't have much information about the eateries that are violating rules. We're running surprise inspections, but since it a new ward, we are facing many hurdles. Also, many of the assistant health officers have been transferred as well, so we're clueless about the places to raid."
Ravi Raja, leader of the opposition in BMC, said "BMC has taken last year's fire in Kamala Mills lightly. They shouldn't have transferred [MOH] in December when the inspection order has been issued. Now, the transferred officers don't know about the area and eateries which would become an obstruction in the full-fledged inspection." Refuting the allegations, Dr Padmaja Keshkar, executive health officer, BMC, said that transfer of MOH would not affect the inspection drive. "This is a normal procedure that keeps happening all the time. It has no role to play in the inspection drive. All the allegations are false," she said.
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