Four days after a murder convict jumped to death from the fifth floor of the Mantralaya, the Maharashtra government on Monday began putting up large nets inside the state secretariat, where several suicide attempts were witnessed recently, to break the fall of anyone who jumps from the building.
On February 8, Harshal Raote, who was on furlough, allegedly jumped into Mantralaya’s central atrium from the fifth floor. He died on the spot. The government has tasked a contractor with installing the high-density polypropylene safety nets. On Monday, contractor Raj Rope Traders started installing a net to cover the 10,000-sqft central atrium. The state secretariat has seven floors, and the first net has been installed at the level of the second floor. Senior officials said plans were afoot to hang another net at the level of the fourth floor.
Company owner Abid Rajkotwala said, “The polypropylene net has a high tensile strength. It can resist 500 kilogram falling from 15 feet.” According to the police, Raote had fallen from the fifth floor. Sources said that the contractor has told officials that the netting along the level of the second floor might give way from a fall from such a height, and advised installing another net along the fourth floor.
This is perhaps the first time a government building in India is hanging a safety net to catch jumpers. According to officials, Chinese manufacturer Foxconn Technologies, touted as the world’s largest electronics manufacturing firm, had similarly hung safety nets at some of its factories after worker suicides in 2010.
Interestingly, sources said senior bureaucrats were not entirely in favour of the move, but it was implemented following directives from the Chief Minister’s Office. A senior bureaucrat pointed out that there were reports of a Foxconn worker falling to her death even after installing safety nets. According to some senior officials, a more effective solution would be to control the entry of visitors.
Senior bureaucrats favour the idea of setting up dispatch sections of all administrative departments at the entry gate, and restrict entry inside the Mantralaya only for those with an appointment. But the state’s political leadership is in two minds over the move. It feels that restricting access to the Mantralaya may spark a political outcry.
Following a spate of suicide attempts at the state’s secretariat, security arrangements have been tightened here. On January 22, Dharma Patil, an 84-year-old farmer, had consumed poison on the sixth floor at the Mantralaya. He died a week later. On February 7, Avinash Shete, a 32-year-old physically challenged man, who also had a grievance, had tried to immolate himself outside the Mantralaya but the police managed to prevent it. On November 12, Dyaneshwar Salve, a 25-year-old farmer from Osmanabad had climbed a parapet on the seventh floor and threatened he would jump. He was rescued after a two-hour drama.
Police have further tightened the screening process at the Mantralaya’s entry gates. Policemen have also been positioned along corridors on each floor to look for any person in distress. In the wake of the February 8 incident, policemen manning such corridors have been discouraging people from hanging about after their work.