Source: The Hitavada      Date: 31 Dec 2017 10:18:25

THE hands of all those people responsible for allowing the two rooftops restaurants in Mumbai to function in total violation of laws, are smeared with the blood of the innocent people who were charred to death during the midnight birthday bash. The tragedy would have been avoided had the authorities followed the rules laid down to ensure the safety of the building occupants. However, the authorities brazenly indulged in corruption and callousness, resulting in the tragedy, singing 14 innocent lives to death besides injuring 55 others.

As the skeletons of the misdeeds of the authorities started tumbling out in the aftermath of the tragedy, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation suspended five of its officials as a face-saving measure. However, this is mere an eyewash to deflect the public anger. Suspension of just some officials won’t suffice. Because, once the dust raised by the tragedy settles down, everything will be normal for the corrupt babus, who will once again start indulging in the corrupt practices without batting an eyelid. This has been the past experience. Fire tragedies have occurred in the past also. Violation of laws by the builders were exposed earlier also and action against some authorities were taken in the past also. Despite this, flouting norms goes on with impunity, and so the tragedies.

Massive violation of norms in the two Mumbai restaurants that were devastated in the fire would not have been possible without the knowledge of powerful political leaders. Why they have not raised a voice against violation of rules by the owners of the pub is anybody’s guess. There are hundreds of restaurants and other establishments in Mumbai and other cities that have come up violating laws. And, it is difficult to digest that the civic authorities are unaware of the violations. The fact is that the authorities turn a blind eye to all sorts of illegalities because their palms are greased regularly.

Instead of fixing the responsibility for allowing the restaurants to function without taking adequate safety precautions, the blame game has begun among the authorities and each one is trying to shift the blame to other. Shockingly, the owners of the two restaurants had an audacity to issue a statement soon after the tragedy stating that all safety norms were followed by them. This is an absolute lie. The police have claimed that fire safety norms were not followed by the pubs and the management did not make any arrangement for safe exit of its customers during the blaze. This has also been corroborated by the survivors of the tragedy, according to whom, people started running helter-skelter to save their lives, leading to a stampede, as there was no fire exit. The manager and other staff of the pub ran away from the spot without helping those injured in the blaze. Had the security guard and his colleague, who showed a presence of mind, and, the two brothers, who lost their lives, not come to the rescue of the trapped people, the death toll would have been much higher.

Pub fire is a wake-up call not only for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation but also for civic bodies across the country. They should learn a lesson from the Mumbai tragedy and make a firm resolve not to allow a repeat of such a tragedy.