Learning no lesson from the fire tragedy at Sector 17 last year where two firemen were killed while dousing the fire, the municipal corporation (MC), is yet to implement the insurance cover scheme for employees, even though it was approved by the MC House in July last year.
In July 2014, an insurance cover of Rs 20 lakh was approved for the MC's firemen in case of a death during any rescue operation; Rs 10 lakh in case of 75% disability; Rs 7.5 lakh in case of 50 to 70% disability; and Rs 5 lakh in case of 20 to 50% disability. However, the process of insurance cover to the MC's around 280 employees is yet to see the day of light.
Besides, the tender floated by the MC to buy uniforms for fire wings employees three months back failed to attract any bidder. On other hand, employees allege the conditions put in the tender - like the MC was asking for only one bidder to buy uniforms and other items like helmets, glubs, which is not "practically possible"- were so stringent that no one came forward.
Last year, the civic body had spent just Rs 10 lakh of the budgeted Rs 12 crore in spite of the fact that the fire and emergency wing has been perennially short of staff and infrastructure. This year, the MC has approved Rs 17 crore budget for the department.
In October 2013, a seven-member committee of the fire and emergency services had visited all seven fire stations of the city and made recommendations for the complete overhaul of the department. However, nothing has moved on since then.
The committee had reported that at least 362 posts of firemen were lying vacant for the past one decade, but till date, the MC had failed to pursue the matter with the UT administration.
The department had sent total 15 firefighters for training in Nagpur, spending Rs 3 lakh on each of them. But now, only five of them are working as firefighters, while rest of them as clerks.
The department does not have a permanent chief fire officer for the past over 10 years, and is short of 30 leading firemen, which has hampered the rescue work operations.
MP Kohli, chairman, MC's fire and emergency services committee, said, "It seems for officers concerned, the fire department is not at all a priority. Why the insurance cover scheme has not been implemented till date? I will take up the issue in the coming meeting of the committee."
When contacted, MC additional commissioner Sunil Bhatia said, "We have already forwarded the case to the UT administration and are waiting for its approval."
Admitting no bidder had come forward for providing uniforms to the MC employees, he said that the tenders would be floated again, adding the MC was waiting for a reply from the Punjab Ex-Servicemen Corporation (PESCO ) to fill up vacancies.