Citing ‘incompetence and lack of efficiency’ on the part of Chief Fire Officer (CFO) A N Varma of the Mumbai Fire Brigade (MFB) in recent rescue operations in the city, the BMC on Monday demoted the official to deputy chief fire officer and handed over additional charge of the top post to deputy chief fire officer Sunil Nesarikar.
“He (Varma) has not been assertive and lacked leadership qualities that are required for the job. In the past five months, neither morning parades are being held nor are there any fire drills being conducted in the department. The mismanagement was never brought to the notice of the civic body also,” said additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh, who is also in-charge of the fire brigade. Varma was given the additional charge of CFO, after the then CFO retired in October 2013.
The civic administration also issued the order for the appointment of Nesarikar on Monday. The change at the helm of the MFB comes in the wake of the recent incident in the Lotus Business Park in Andheri (West) on July 18 that claimed the life of a fireman and left 21 firefighters injured. “The process to demote (Varma) had already been initiated, but coincided with the recent fire incident. We have noticed at least five major fire incidents, wherein there was neither an analysis on the incident nor deliberation on what could have been done to avoid it. We also found that he heavily relied on the deputy fire officials and there have been zero initiatives in improving fire security in the city,” said Deshmukh.
With the lack of differentiation between the operational and administrative wings in the brigade, the civic body is also in the process of creating a new unit that will take up the responsibility for inspection of buildings and handing over no-objection certificates (NOC) to the structures.
In the case of the recent fire, the civic body has observed that a fire NOC was handed over to the structure despite major violations in the firefighting plan.
“The officials who had granted an NOC to the structure in 2005 have retired. We are seeking legal opinion on what action can we take in such a situation,” Deshmukh added.