For over two years,around 10 per cent of the permanent posts have been vacant in the Mumbai Fire Brigade,which is called upon not only for firefighting but also various other duties and animal rescues,besides being asked to guard swimmers off the beach.
The reason being cited is that most of the posts are for the reserved category and repeated advertisements have failed to attract enough numbers. These posts cannot be filled by unreserved category aspirants,says Chief Fire Officer Uday Tatkare.
Of the 2,300 permanent posts in the department,including firemen,machine operators and leading fire officials,around 223 are vacant,besides 520-odd temporary posts.
Tatkare said it is difficult to fill the posts as most of the posts are reserved for backward classes. Despite repeated advertisements in newspapers,these posts do not get filled and since they are reserved,we have to recruit people only from the reserved categories. Another reason is that 8-10 people retire and around two to three persons get promoted on an average every month. This also results in vacant posts, said Tatkare.
In one case,a demotion has led to a vacant post.
Of the 1,576 posts of firemen,110 are vacant and 84 of the 483 machine operator and driver posts are vacant. Amongst the higher-rung staff including adivisional officers,29 of the 243 posts have not been filled.
One of the six deputy chief fire officers had been demoted owing to corruption charges and his post is now vacant.
The posts are vacant at a time when the department is getting saddled with more work. Besides fighting fires,they are also one of the first respondents in other major and minor disasters,be it flood or terror situations.
Often they are called for rescuing a stranded bird or animal. The fire brigade receives about 55 calls a day and 40 per cent of them pertain to fires. The rest are related to other disasters such as wall or building collapses and accidents.
Three months ago,the BMC handed over beach security to the fire department and sent 120 firemen to Goa to be trained as professional lifeguards.