Task of data retrieval from damaged machines on in full force

A day after a massive fire charred a third of the Mantralaya, killing five people, the Maharashtra administration picked up the threads on Friday as the situation in the State’s seat of power limped back to normality.

Speaking to reporters, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan emphasised that all department files were safe and secure, stressing that the inferno had no impact on the ongoing Adarsh scam probe as all the files were with the CBI.

Most of the offices on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the building were gutted. The maximum damage was suffered by the Revenue, Housing, Transport, Urban Development and Tribal Welfare Departments, besides the offices of the Chief Minister, the Deputy Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary.

As per sources, 2,000 of the 3500 computers have been destroyed.

The Chief Minister, however, said that the task of data retrieval from the damaged machines was on in full force, with aid to be taken from NASSCOM and the National Informatics Centre (NIC).

“Critical files belonging to the Land Ceiling Department were not damaged by the blaze. The government will hopefully be able to restore nearly 90-95 per cent of the hard drives of the damaged computers as the files had been safely stored using the Document Journey Management System (DJMS). We are also seeking the aid of foreign experts.”

The building premises would remain sealed till a structured audit of the incident was undertaken, Mr. Chavan said.

All Ministers, meanwhile, have been urged to cancel their tours. While Cabinet meetings would take place as scheduled, Mr. Chavan said that work would be spread over a number of places including G.T. Hospital, Worli Dairy and Vaswani Chambers, while some departments would function out of the New Administration building.

Of the 5 lakh sq. ft. building area, around 1,95,000 sq. ft had been destroyed by the conflagration.

Water and dirt were the biggest hindrances to the fire-fighting teams on the charred floors, the Chief Minister noted, adding that a National Disaster Management Authority team was expected to arrive on Saturday to aid the administration.

Asked about the tardiness of emergency response systems, Mr. Chavan said that until a thorough inquiry into the cause of the fire was carried out, no ad-hoc, non-expert response could be given.

“This is a serious issue. Let there be no blame fixing now. How did the fire spread so quickly? Were Standard Operating Procedures followed or not? The answers would only emerge after the inquiry is carried out.”

It is however not clear which fire service body, the National Fire Service College or some other body, would be placed in charge of the inquiry.

Likewise, the Chief Minister ruled out sabotage as the cause of the fire, urging restraint in the spread of rumours as the State was going through a crisis.

Mr. Chavan also said he had asked for the fire-safety audit report of 2008 from the Public Works Department, and said he would look into each of the 32 recommendations suggested.

The audit, conducted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had at the time alerted the government about an impending disaster, while specifically noting the dysfunctional fire alarms and extinguishers.

However, no action was apparently taken.