Two devastating fires 43 lives lost at Stephen Court in March 2010 and 93 patients dead at AMRI Hospital in December 2011 and still,no lessons learnt.
Four days after the Stephen Court disaster,a committee under Banibrata Basu,then Special Commissioner of Police (II),and comprising officials from the police,municipal corporation and Fire and Emergency Services departments was set up to inspect 48 buildings and markets and submit recommendations.
The panel suggested that there should be separate entry and exit in each and every market and fire fighting equipment along with extinguishers installed at all such places. Till date,30 of the 46 markets under the Kolkata Municipal Corporation do not have proper fire fighting equipment. And only 12 markets have no-objection certificates from the Fire department. The markets without an NOC include Bagree Market,Territy Bazar,Mercantile Building,Jamuna Building,Janaki Building,Ganesh Katra all located in central Kolkata.
After the AMRI fire,a team led by former Additional Director General (Fire) D P Biswas was set up to look into fire fighting equipment required at private hospitals. However,the committee is yet to submit its recommendations. Fire and Emergency Minister Javed Khan,however,says that with enquires still going on at some hospitals,the report is yet to take a final shape and will be submitted soon.
The problem is not paucity of funds. As per P S Katiresan,former principal secretary (Fire),in 2009 the department got Rs 150 crore from the 13th Finance Commission for upgradation of services. Not even 10 per cent of this money was spent,he says. In this years budget,Rs 46 crore has been allocated,but only Rs 30 crore has been spent with the fiscal coming to an end next month.
Sources in the department say that frequent transfers of top bosses have led to problems. Katiresan was transferred in 2009. Next,Indeevar Pandey was appointed principal secretary. After Pandey was transferred,between 2012 and the beginning of this year three principal secretaries have joined and left the department. Both N R Banerjee and Hridesh Mohan had to leave after reported differences with the minister. Said an official who once headed the department: I could not do anything due to pressure from bosses.