Delay in paying a Rs 859 telephone bill has cut the sole medium of communication between residents and the lone fire station in Jharkhand’s Bahragora block, which witnessed at least 40 cases of fire at residential and commercial localities last year.
This is not the first time the seven lakh residents of the area were deprived of telephone connectivity with the fire station. In 2014, the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) had disconnected the telephone connection to the fire station for this very reason. Back then, Kunal Sarangi – the sitting legislator of the Baharagora constituency – had to go from door to door, collecting donations to pay the bill.
“We did it once, and we are ready to do it again. We will pay the bill from the party (Jharkhand Mukti Morcha) fund. This is how the government functions – it’s ridiculous that such a meagre amount cannot be cleared by the authorities,” said Sarangi.
Describing the developments leading to the telephone line disconnection, Baharagora fire station in-charge Ramatish Ram told HT, “We had paid the bill till May last year, but the telephone bill has been lying unpaid since then. The BSNL disconnected our telephone line three months ago. Though I informed the Jharkhand fire service and submitted all the pending telephone bills to our Ranchi office, nothing has been done till now.”
Ram said that in the present circumstances, residents have to inform the local police or block development officials, who – in turn – contact the fire station. “This process takes time. On many occasions, fire engines reached the affected spot only after everything was gutted,” he added.
Only two fire engines are stationed at Bahragora, one of which is defunct.
The entire 2,094 sq-km Ghatsila sub-division, which comprises Ghatsila, Dhalbhumgarh, Chakulia, Baharagora, Gurabandha, Dumuria and Mosaboni blocks, is managed by just two fire engines.
Hrishikesh Bera, a resident of Baharagora, said, “It is ridiculous that BSNL has cut the telephone connection to a crucial public service line over a bill of a mere Rs 859. We feel insecure due to the absence of an effective fire service. Even if the fire engine does reach on time, it doesn’t have enough water to douse the blaze.”