SEVENTY personnel from the Mumbai Police will now guard the Deonar dumping ground until the construction of a boundary wall around it is completed. Even after the wall comes up, the police will continue to patrol the city’s largest dump yard.
The decision has been taken in view of repeated fires at the ground, which drastically worsen the city’s air quality.
“In a meeting attended by civic officials and the police, a decision was taken to secure the landfill. Accordingly, we have provided 70 policemen to guard the premises. They will be stationed until the fencing work is completed. Once fenced, the police party will patrol the area,” said a senior official.
While the police will patrol the dump yard, the job of screening those entering it will be the responsibility of the contractor, he said. The issue of securing the Deonar ground had been pending for long, with the two agencies unable to arrive at a common plan.
Meanwhile, the final inquiry report prepared by Additional Commissioner of Police Manoj Lohia is expected to be submitted in the next ten days. When the fire first broke out on January 28, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the surrounding areas descended to the ‘very poor’ category.
A senior official said though the terms of reference for the inquiry are focused on the cause of the fire, it will also look into the role of other stakeholders. “The investigation is into whether the fire was caused due to mischief or was it accidental. If it was accidental, whether it was aggravated due to negligence and if it was mischief, who is behind it. The inquiry so far hints towards the fires being caused by sabotage,” said the official.
Police officers said the thirteen scrapdealers arrested in the case were booked on the basis of statements by ragpickers, mainly minors, hired by them to separate metal scrap from the other waste in the dumping ground.
“The easiest way to separate metal and other valuable scrap from plastic and wet waste is to ignite a small fire. The testimonies of the ragpickers against the accused have details on how they were encouraged to light these fires,” said a senior official. Many ragpickers, however, have denied this and blamed the combustible nature of the waste for the fire.
Even as the police are on the lookout for some more scrap dealers, they are now increasing the ambit of the probe to the role of civic officials and the contractor.
“The first leg of the probe concerned scrap dealers, but now we have shifted focus to BMC officials and the contractor. We are probing if there was any negligence on their part,” a senior official said.