The recent tragedy inside the city's oldest museum should act as an eye opener about the safety of its public landmarks and utility buildings, many of which are heritage structures
Well over a decade ago, while on a visit that was part of research for a book, we stepped inside the general post office or GPO to most of us. Not only were we amazed at the massive dome and the stunning tribute to Indo Saracenic architecture but also to its rather vintage elevator, among its other interesting elements. Tempted, we decided to take it to reach the first level. It was a unique ride and we were glad that the experience added to the overall 'heritage' vibe of the landmark. A few firang tourists who were also in the archaic lift with us seemed pretty pleased, and said it reminded them of London. Ah, well.
While on another trip around the same time to a public building, this time for a story about a missing file linked to a city monument, our reporting adventures took us to several floors of the hallowed structure. What struck us was the fine celebration of Gothic design. But what also made us take a second look was the flouting of safety norms inside. Fire extinguishers were missing in most key positions, safety exits were either locked or not visible to the public eye and staircases were poorly lit. It didn't leave us with a good feeling.
The unfortunate loss of a human life after the lift accident at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum once again puts the spotlight on some of the city's most used (and often abused) buildings and their need to have a tighter grip on such critical factors as people safety. Many of these structures — whether it is our railway terminuses or public utility service buildings — date back to a century or even more. The city, with its unforgiving monsoon and gusty sea winds, faces the brunt of it in fine form; this, may we add, is a tribute to its engineers and architects from that period. However, many of the current owners and keepers of such spaces seem to be sitting on its sturdy foundations, quite literally.
While the blame game is still on between the museum and the BMC, it should act as a wake-up call for maintenance babus across all such sites and structures to get their act together and ensure that checks and measures are in place for its use, more so in a city like ours where crowds are as common as crows. Don't sit on files and enquiry reports or surveys, but act on it, we say. The city has been too quiet for too long. We also saw what happened with the tragic CSMT bridge collapse. Lessons clearly haven't been learnt. But how long will the Bombaywallah remain patient? Your guess is as good as ours.
mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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