Kamala Mills fire: BMC probe goes soft on 2 senior officers

Snuffed out: A fire at two restaurants in the Kamala Mills compound in Lower Parel on December 29, 2017, killed 14 people.  

Two assistant municipal commissioners, who were pronounced guilty in the inquiry conducted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) into the Kamala Mills fire, are likely to get away with a rap on the knuckles. Of the 12 officers found guilty in the probe, three are proposed to be dismissed.

A blaze at two restaurants in the Kamala Mills compound in Lower Parel on December 29, 2017, killed 14 people. The restaurants and the mill were rife with irregularities, and then municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta had suspended five civic officers the next day. The suspended officers included assistant divisional fire officer Sandeep Shinde, designated officer Madhukar Shelar, junior engineer Dharmaraj Shinde, sub-engineer Dinesh Mahale, and medical health officer Satish Badgire.

Eventually, Mr. Mehta submitted a detailed report to the State government wherein he mentioned that the role of 12 officers, including the five suspended officials, needed to be probed through a full-fledged departmental inquiry. The inquiry was conducted by additional municipal commissioner Vijay Singhal following which charge sheets were filed, statements and evidence were recorded.

Mr. Shelar, Mr. Dharmaraj Shinde, Mr. Mahale, and Mr. Sandeep Shinde were found guilty. Besides, assistant engineers (building and factory) Manohar Kulkarni, Milind Vhatkar, deputy executive health officer Rajesh Madan, station officer (fire brigade) Rajendra Patil, and sanitary inspector Pradip Shirke were found guilty.

The report had found former assistant municipal commissioner of G South ward Prashant Sapkale and his predecessor, Bhagyashree Kapse, guilty of not having “been alert towards supervisory control.” However, they were not found guilty of other charges. The report also said assistant commissioners are the administrative chiefs of the ward, who have several responsibilities, and it is the heads of wards, who look into proposals.

However, Mr. Mehta, had noted, “The two ward officers have been found guilty of poor/no supervision. This is serious as supervision of ward-level activities is the primary responsibility of the ward officers.”

Meanwhile, the report had found Dr. Badgire guilty on multiple charges. All these officers were given another chance to present their defence and a final decision was taken by Mr. Mehta just before his promotion.

The BMC has decided to dismiss three officers, reportedly from the building and factory and health departments, from service. The three will be sent show cause notices.

Meanwhile, all other officers will face varying degrees of punishment and the orders have been issued to them already. The two assistant commissioners are not up for dismissal and are likely to have one increment held back. The accused can take legal recourse as well.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 3:04:48 AM |

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