Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis ordered a probe by BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta into the Kamala Mills fire tragedy. Fadnavis said stern action would be taken against BMC officials if any dereliction of duty was found on their part. The announcement, however, did not deter members of the allies, the BJP and the Shiv Sena, from taking potshots at each other over the accident.
“What has happened is unfortunate. We suspended five people from the BMC and an inquiry will be conducted by Commissioner Ajoy Mehta. The owners will face criminal action as their negligence has caused death of these people,” Fadnavis said after visiting the accident site on Friday afternoon. The chief minister said the probe would be completed in 15 days.
“We have also suspended BMC officials and if it is found there was wilful negligent behavior by them in granting permissions, criminal action will be taken against them as well. I have also asked the BMC to undertake a safety audit of all such structures, which had been granted permission and demolish those who have been operating without requisite clearances,” Fadnavis said.
Meanwhile, BJP members took the opportunity to attack the Shiv Sena-led BMC and suggested that rampant violations were taking place in connivance with local officials and there was a need to probe if politicians were involved. “As per information, 8 to 10 per cent extra FSI was used in this place and money was made out of it. We demand an investigation into this. Officers should have known about this. We also need to see if only officers were in the know or whether this chain went beyond BMC officers,” Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar said.
BJP MP Kirit Somaiyya pointed out that in spite of having complained to BMC authorities about fire safety violations after the Sakinaka fire earlier this month, no action was taken by the BMC. “Two weeks ago, a similar incident had happened at Sakinaka and I had told BMC officials then to undertake a fire protection audit of all establishments. But no one seems to be concerned about the life of people. All officials who give permissions to such structures needed to be persecuted with criminal action being filed against them,” Somaiyya said.
Shiv Sena leaders blamed BMC officials saying that the bureaucrats had given permissions for these structures. “There is negligence. All mills operate as independent entities and do as they feel. Structures have been set up as per their whims. Need to check if these structures have requisite permissions and if not why was no action taken against them by officials,” Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant said.
Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray, meanwhile, said he had pointed out to mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar the risk of accidents in these places a few days ago and the need to carry out an urgent fire audit of these structures. “I had spoken to the mayor about the same issue yesterday. A few days ago, I was here and noticed that at places like Kamala Mills, Todi Mills and Raghuvanshi Mills, if an accident occurred there was no space for fire engines to even enter. I had told him about the need for conducting an urgent fire audit of these structures,” he said.
Thackeray said action would be taken against errant officials or politicians who played a part in the negligence. He said there was a need to prominently display fire safety compliance certification in all commercial structures.
Meanwhile, the Congress opposed the decision of the government to ask BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta to conduct the probe and said it would be a farce as he would be judging his own subordinates. “The BMC is responsible for this incident. An investigation by the Commissioner of the same organisation would be a farce. An inquiry conducted by the BMC commissioner is unacceptable to us. We demand that a CBI inquiry be instituted for all building collapses and fire incidents that have occurred in Mumbai over the past two years,” said Leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil. Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan also called for a high level probe.
The NCP demanded that BMC officials needed to be booked as well. “There are a slew of illegal constructions in this area and many violations of fire norms. The BMC administration has turned a blind eye to these violations. The owners of the place where the incident occurred will be booked but cases should be filed against BMC officials as well,” said NCP Mumbai president Sachin Ahir.