A Tragedy Waiting To Happen

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A Tragedy Waiting To Happen

| Updated: May 26, 2024 17:44

In spite of several accidents in the past in Gujarat, lessons have not been learnt

Around 4.30 pm on Saturday, fire broke out in the TRP Game Zone in Rajkot and within minutes at least 30 persons, including children, were charred to death.

The gaming zone did not have the requisite No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Fire and Safety Department. The gaming zone had inflammable substances and tyres. The fire was sparked off from a welding machine.  

The Gujarat Government took swift action and formed a Special Investigation Team to look into the incident. The team, which has started working, has to submit the preliminary report in three days. 

The Gujarat High Court has taken suo moto cognizance of the tragedy.  Arrests have been made and an FIR filed. Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and minister of state for home, Harsh Sanghvi, went to Rajkot. Financial assistance has been announced by the Prime Minister’s office and the Chief Minister’s office.

The DGP in Gujarat has ordered the closure of all the gaming zones in the state that do not have NOC from the Fire and Safety Department.

Past incidents

The fact, however, is that this was a tragedy that was waiting to happen as lessons have not been learnt from the past. It is to be noted that the BJP has been having absolute power for almost three decades at the state level and in municipal corporations.

There was a fire in the gaming zone of a mall in Ahmedabad two months ago. Luckily, no life was lost. In January, there was a fire in an under-construction fun park on the S G Highway.

January also witnessed 12 students and two teachers losing their lives when a boat capsized in the heart of Vadodara. The boat was filled beyond capacity and the contractor had not made it compulsory to wear life jackets. The case is in the Gujarat High Court.

In December 2022, 135 lives were lost when a 143-year-old hanging bridge in Morbi collapsed. The Morbi Municipality had outsourced the operations and maintenance to the Oreva Group.

The irony is that the municipal authorities had claimed that they were not aware that the bridge was reopened after maintenance. It was only two months ago that the Supreme Court granted bail to Oreva Group managing director Jaysukh Patel.

In 2019, 22 students died in Surat when fire engulfed a coaching institute in which they were studying. The accused are out on bail.

Soon after the Surat incident, coaching classes across the state remained shut. These included the ones which had standard operating procedures in place and fire safety permissions. However, today numerous classes that operate across the state do not even have adequate safety guidelines in place.

These are just a few examples of the tragedies that have taken place in the state. Soon after the tragedies take place, orders are issued to set up panels and even shut down entities flouting rules.

However, the fact remains that seldom does the monitoring continue after a few months. Government departments and  civic bodies are understaffed and unable to supervise at regular intervals and ensure that norms are being followed.

Lack of permissions

In the case of the Rajkot incident, the question arises how a big gaming zone was allowed to operate without the requisite permissions. Those behind the gaming zone have been arrested, but the question remains will action be taken against those in the civic body who were responsible for giving authorisations?.

It was only last month that the Gujarat High Court ordered an inquiry against the then municipal commissioner of Vadodara in the Harni boat tragedy case. He is alleged to have given the contract illegally.

Rajya Sabha MP and Gujarat Congress president Shaktisinh Gohil hit out at the state government and said that the tragedy would not have happened if fire safety was in place in the gaming zone. He pointed out that the Gujarat High Court has time and again asked the government to put fire safety requirements in place.

After such tragedies, similar facilities, even if they have permissions, will be closed. But they will be reopened very soon after the exchange of bribes, he alleged.

We need to also mention the industrial disasters that occur in the Golden Corridor between Vatva to Vapi and other parts of the state. In these cases as well, the standard operating procedures have not been followed.  

Environment expert Rohit Prajapati said that there is a need for an expert committee to prevent fires, including those in hospitals, and industrial accidents. According to him, ad hoc actions after such incidents won’t work and there is a need to look at the problem in a systematic manner.

Also Read: Rajkot Gaming Zone Was ‘Unauthorised’, Didn’t Have Fire NOC Too

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