After a gruelling 60-hour operation, the fire at Bagree market was arrested on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a case was lodged against two directors and the CEO of Bagree Estate Private Limited. All three accused are absconding. Firefighters and disaster management groups were engaged in the cooling process of the building when this report was filed.
The state fire department had lodged a complaint against directors Radha Bagree and Varun Raj Bagree as well as CEO Krishna Kumar Kothari at Burrabazar police station. A case was started under sections 11C, 11J, 11L of the West Bengal Fires Services Act (related to fire safety and maintenance of building) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy to commit an offence) and 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house etc) of the IPC.
State Fire Minister Sovan Chatterjee said, “Fire has been arrested in the building. However, one or two small pockets of fire remained. There is no possibility of fire spreading any more.”
“It was very tough, keeping in mind highly-flammable goods stockpiled, locked gates and grills and obstructions in corridors and staircases,” he added.
Kolkata Police teams raided various premises to nab the accused. Officials visited Kothari’s residence in Burrabazar but found that although it was listed as his residence in company documents, he had not lived there for several years. Police said that Kothari was supposed to put firefighting arrangements in place and had charged large sums from shop owners.
At the Bagrees’ residence on 81 Ballygunge Place, police said only the cook was there, who said Bagree had not been living there since September 9. Her son and daughter-in-law had left in the morning on the day the fire broke out and had not returned since then.
Chunks of concrete were seen falling off the walls and ceilings of the building. Locals also said the building had developed deep cracks. KMC teams were seen clearing away the charred remains of stockpiles of goods and plastic materials. Traders were salvaging what they could from the charred remains.
Despite the condition of the building, businessmen and traders were not in favour of tearing it down.
“The market is strong enough. First, the fire needs to be doused, garbage needs to be removed and then there will be repair work. The building is strong enough to endure such a fire. All that is required is good repair work but what is worrying is that where the required money will come from? People have lost everything. Many had loaned a lot of money and bought goods worth crores of rupees ahead of the pujas,” said Ashutosh Singh, president of the Bagree Market Central Kolkata Traders Welfare Association.
Meanwhile, Left Front Chairman Biman Bose said the state government should have called in the Army.
“I do not know why it did not do it. If the situation went out of hand then it was apparent that Indian Army should have been called in,” he said at a press conference.
The CPM leader also slammed Mamata for saying goons were responsible for irregularities at the market.
“If that is the case, why did her administration not take action? These are some of the characteristics of a state where democracy is killed,” he said.