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

Timely action could have saved lives, say activists

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‘1 Above used terraced area in violation of building rules’

Three activists, who have time and again brought the lack of safety measures at eateries in the city to the notice of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), said on Friday that timely action could have saved lives.

Santosh Gupta, Illiyas Khan and Dinesh Vaghela for months had been alerting the BMC to violations of safety norms by restaurants like 1 Above and Mojo’s. The trio feels that Friday’s tragedy could have averted had BMC officials acted on their complaints.

In response to a Right To Information query that Mr. Gupta filed in May, BMC authorities revealed that 1 Above had not been given permission to use ‘the open terrace for trade activity’.

Mr. Gupta said, “In my RTI application, I had asked the officials to furnish inspection reports. However, the BMC said the owner had taken ‘objection to disclose that information.’ This tragedy should never have happened.”

On May 31, the BMC had also issued a Stop Work notice following the construction of an unauthorised wall. Mr. Khan said, “The officials knew that the constructions were illegal. Yet they did not take any action.”

Mr. Khan is in possession of a copy of the Public Health Department’s inspection report of the local ward. The report states that 1 Above did not have the requisite permissions to conduct operations on a terrace. Mr. Khan said, “I had also brought this to the notice of the Municipal Commissioner in July this year.”

Mr. Waghela of Safe Mumbai Association said that restaurants were conducting illegal operations as hookahs are not permitted on the premises of an eatery. He said, “The BMC can allow hookahs only if the eatery has a specified smoking area.”

Mr. Waghela said he has a copy of the BMC inspection report served to Mojo’s, which states that 1 Above used the terraced area and permitted patrons to smoke in violation of rules.

In September this year, Mr. Waghela wrote to the Chief Officer (Enquiry) to take action against Dr. Satish Badgire, Health officer of G/South Ward, for ‘negligence in duty’. Mr. Waghela sais, “Ironically, he along with five others have now been suspended. What is the point in taking action now after the damage has already been done? Innocent lives would have been saved had action been taken earlier.”

Assistant Municipal Commissioner Prashant Sapkale, said that he issued inspection reports to all open air restaurants that did not have requisite permissions to carry out operations in terraced areas. “We even carried out a demolition on August 2 and a seizure on September 22,” he claimed.

However, Mr. Gupta said, “If they were serious, they would not have let them run for a single day.”

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 10:23:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/timely-action-could-have-saved-lives-say-activists/article22329106.ece

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