The Kamala Mills fire: a look at how the events unfolded

Mumbai fire: Officials suspended as Opposition seeks CBI probe

The fire at Kamala Mills compound.

The fire at Kamala Mills compound.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

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“I have been there and it is like a bhool bhuliya (maze) with so many narrow lanes”, says Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan

While Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered a probe into Friday’s devastating fire at the Trade House Building and the Mumbai Municipal Commissioner suspended five officials, the opposition demanded a CBI probe alleging corruption in the civic body ruled by the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance.

The tragedy had its echoes in Parliament where Sena MP Arvind Sawant demanded a judicial inquiry. Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan said there were signs of negligence. “I have been there and it is like a bhool bhuliya (maze) with so many narrow lanes. So obviously there has been negligence,” she said.

The Congress and the NCP targeted the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which they alleged has become a hub of corrupt practices.

“We want nothing less than a CBI enquiry in this matter,” said leader of the opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.

Mumbai Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, who instituted an inquiry on the orders of the Chief Minister, has suspended five officials and transferred local ward Assistant Municipal Commissioner Prashant Sapkale for failing in their duty.

The officials included designated officer of the building and licence department Madhukar Shelar, sub-engineer Dinesh Mahale, junior engineer Dhanraj Shinde, health officer Satish Badgire and assistant divisional fire officer S.S. Shinde from the fire brigade.

“We have already suspended five BMC officials, but beyond that if they or owners are found responsible for loss of lives, they will be booked under relevant sections of the IPC. Guilty won’t be spared,” Mr Fadnavis said after visiting the accident site. “We have also ordered for safety audit of all such structures immediately and demolition of illegal ones,” he said.

Hours before his transfer was announced, Mr. Sapkale told The Hindu, “The two establishments only had Eating House permissions and the open air extensions were illegal. We have been taking action against a lot of such restaurants in our ward. We could not revoke their Eating House permits without following due procedure. Notices were issued to four open air establishments in Kamala Mills, including One Above and Mojo's Bistro.”

K.V. Hiwrale, Deputy Chief Fire Officer said an enquiry would begin from Saturday. “One Above had the fire permission. However it is to be seen if they complied with all the conditions and took all the safety precautions.” I cannot comment just yet since everything has been burnt,” he said.

Additional Municipal Commissioner (City), A.L Jarhad said the enquiry would reveal how the premises continued to operate despite notices being sent.

The Municipal Commissioner also instituted an enquiry into the incident on the orders of the chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, he told the standing committee on Friday. Emphasizing that the BMC will emphasize on preventing fires rather than on extinguishing fire, Mr. Mehta underlined measures he had taken to ensure better fire safety mechanism in place.

Mr. Mehta also said that he was also working towards empowering civic officials to act against fire hazardous structures even in non-civic areas. The BMC has also created posts for designated officials in each of the 34 fire stations in city, who will focus primarily on ensuring implementation of fire safety norms in premises. He also said that the measures of modernization of the fire brigade will be taken to its logical conclusion.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 6:54:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/mumbai-fire-officials-suspended-as-opposition-seeks-cbi-probe/article22328415.ece

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