On Friday, five persons were confirmed dead in the fire that gutted the Maharashtra secretariat on Thursday. They include three visitors of the deputy CM and two guards from the chief minister’s office.
The Marine Drive police registered a case of accidental death. While CM Prithviraj Chavan ordered a probe into the lapses related to fire safety, public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal and his department came in for criticism for failure to maintain a proper fire-fighting system at Mantralaya.
In its preliminary findings, the fire brigade observed that the state government headquarters was ill-equipped to handle fire or any such disaster and the staff had not been trained to counter such a situation. It also pointed out that the Mantralaya fire officer was not present at the time of the incident. Since fire brigade officials did not know the building plan, it took long to control the fire.
Chavan, meanwhile, also planned to house different departments in various buildings across the city, till the time Mantralaya could be made fit for use. The state secretariat houses nearly 5,000 staff and accommodating them at different locations is a daunting task. Even more challenging would be to carry on work in the absence of many crucial files that were burnt in Thursday’s fire.
Four teams of the Mumbai police crime branch, which began investigations on Friday, will concentrate on forensic evidence, statement of witnesses, close-circuit television footage and circumstantial evidence to establish the cause of the fire.
The state as well as the municipal corporation, Mumbai police, customs and income tax authorities have now decided to conduct fire safety audits of their major offices in Mumbai.
Meanwhile, Union minister Sharad Pawar said rebuilding of the secretariat should be done by the government and not by using the build-operate-transfer route.