A reality-check on the Parliament House has exposed a complete lack of safety against fire,sources disclosed here on Saturday. The exercise was carried out in the light of the Mantralaya fire in Mumbai.
While a fire could erupt any time in the main building,the furniture and paper littered all over were enough to spread it. What was worse,with the staircases linking the second and third floors with the first being blocked,there seemed no way to evacuate people from the two top stories of the building from outside.
Lok Sabha Secretary-General T K Viswanathan told The Indian Express that the canteen in the main building had been ordered to stop all cooking forthwith,followed by a removal of LPG cylinders. He said,the canteen had at least 30 LPG cylinders,which at any given moment could turn into missiles in case a fire broke out.
There was a proposal once to replace the cylinders with a piped gas supply.
However,it was shot down on the ground that the installation of gas pipes could damage the heritage building. The same proposal has been revised with Speaker Meira Kumar preferring safety over other considerations.
Parliament,like the Mantralaya,has seen a proliferation of extensions and constructions for the creation of more office space in verandas. The basement has been practically converted into a junkyard for storing discarded furniture. Mounds of booklets are piled in passages.
Viswanathan said he has convened a meeting of senior offices to not only plan preventive measures,but also see how fire could be fought fast and an evacuation of people ensured. The task was particularly daunting because unlike the Mantralaya,the Parliament House did not have balconies from where people could be rescued with the use of ladders.