Mumbai a city sitting on volcano of endless disasters

Rohit Chandavarkar
Friday, 29 December 2017

The root cause is obviously the congestion and the multiple piling of structure on limited space in Mumbai city and suburbs. All floor space index rules are bent and broken all safety norms are thrown out of the window when it comes to creating commercial structures and then piling on it endlessly. Safety or caution about fire prevention etc is nobody's concern.

Yet again the vulnerability of the ordinary Mumbaikar has got exposed. A city that saw several disasters in the last year saw one more of them as the year is just about to end. 14 persons dying as sudden fire engulfed a party destination in plush central Mumbai's Kamala mill premises shocked Mumbai and the rest of India. Ghatkopar building collapse that claimed 38 lives earlier this year, Elphinston rail footover bridge tragedy that claimed 23 lives and now two virtually back to back fire incidents one at Saki Naka on 18th Dec and second on midnight of Thursday at Kamala mills makes one wonder if this is really now a city of disasters which will continue endlessly. 

Fourteen people including 11 women, most of them in their twenties and early thirties, were killed in a massive fire that started from a restaurant in Mumbai's Kamala Mills compound late on Thursday night,  and spread rapidly to nearby restaurants and offices as well. Fire-fighters took more than three hours to douse the huge flames that leapt up in central Mumbai's nightlife hub.

Initial reports indicate most of the casualties were reported from the vicinity of the restaurants that had opened in the 37-acre premises over the last few years. A case of culpable homicide has been registered against owners of the restaurant "1 Above" where the fire broke out. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said he has asked the civic body chief to "take strong action against erring officials". Aditya Thackeray, leader of the Shiv Sena, said he has spoken to the city's civic body commissioner. "Implementing fire audits of such places are a must, and action will be taken if violations are found," he tweeted.

Sulbha  Arora, a Mumbai doctor said she was at the swanky restaurant when the fire broke out. "There was no time for anyone to reach out because the fire spread so rapidly. The staff members of the restaurant were trying to help the customers as much as possible," the the eyewitness and survivor told reporters on. "People were running over me even as the ceiling above me was collapsing in flames. Still don't know how I got out alive. Some powers were definitely protecting me," she said in tweets, calling the incident the "scariest thing I have ever survived".

It all throws light on Mumbai's falling and crumbling upkeep of public infrastructure including public places such as railway stations, flyovers, buildings, restaurants and bars. You name any type of public place and chances are that it has seen a fatal disaster in the last few years at least once if not more times! Is the city sitting on a volcano of disasters? 

There is typical set of reactions coming from public faces including politicians, bureaucrats, police and municipal authorities and even the media. All pushing the blame to someone else. Politicians would push the blame of civic services such as the fire brigade for what they call is a faulty process of allowing fire clearances at public places. Bureaucrats would push the blame to someone else and everybody would firstly mourn the deaths and then demand "action against the culprits" . But after dozens of such disasters no action is seen happening against any of the persons responsible for running the city. Dozens of lives being lost thru the year and no one held accountable ! 

The root cause is obviously the congestion and the multiple piling of structure on limited space in Mumbai city and suburbs. All floor space index rules are belt and broken all safety norms are thrown out of the window when it comes to creating commercial structures and then piling on it endlessly. Safety or caution about fire prevention etc is nobody's concern. The corrupt system that runs on kickbacks allows all this to continue and after every tragedy only fake and predictable reactions from politicians are heard repeatedly. Unless a complete overhaul of the system happens and accountability is fixed on bureaucrats and politicians, nothing will change. If this is not taken seriously there will only be similar disasters in the next calendar year too.

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