Safety takes a backseat in trade fair

CHENNAI JAN. 28. A serious risk of injury or worse confronts many of those who visit the trade fair being organised by the State Tourism department in the city, because of poor safety norms followed in the operation of rides.

Despite the department raking in huge profits, as the fair is very popular with those in the middle and lower income groups, attracting thousands of persons everyday, especially during holidays, safety has taken a backseat.

Apart from the threat of stepping on livewires, which are seen lying across the play area without proper covering, most of the equipment appears to be in poor condition.

The biggest threat awaits those who take a joy ride on the giant wheel where even elementary precautions have not been adopted. For instance, those seated in the carriages do not have any protection in the form of even a restraining rod on the front side. "It is really scary as we have to cling on to the sides as the giant wheel rotates at great speed. I cannot understand why the authorities have failed to ensure basic safety," an angry young housewife was seen arguing with those manning the wheel.

"Even infants are being allowed along with their parents in these carriages which is totally open on all sides. The only motive seems to be profit. The authorities will swing into action only after a tragedy is reported," a doctor, who came to the fair, said, recalling the response to a recent road accident.

The entire amusement area has been given to one contractor, to operate 16 rides.

An inspection committee consisting of three engineers — civil, electrical and mechanical — certifies the safety of the rides. In the wake of an accident in one of the rides in March last, there have been demands for more stringent checks on safety, and insurance cover for the visitors for trauma and life risks.

Three persons, including two women, were injured when the ride started moving even as they were alighting from it last year at the fair. They had to be hospitalised and a case was registered.

This year, apart from the giant wheel, even the other play equipment are not safe, many families fear.

"Though we charge Rs.15 from each person for a ride we do not make much profit as the rides are full only on holidays and Sundays," points out a worker operating the play equipment. Though it is the responsibility of the Tourism department to ensure that these contractors fix only safe equipment, this does not happen in practice as the inspection is done by lower-level staff.

The equipment has also been squeezed into a small area. "A winch moves above hundreds of persons in the play area. This could have been fixed at another area at least.

The poor lighting facility has also come in for sharp criticism. The fair also lacks a foolproof security mechanism to handle such a huge crowd.

The authorities could think of installing CCTV cameras and more information booths for helping the visitors.

There are no complaint boxes for visitors.

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