In a surprising case of government apathy, Haryana Fire Service employees, who risk their lives to control fire tragedies in the city, have been denied an insurance cover.
Moreover, they work without any risk allowance, night allowance or any other special allowance. "We have discussed this matter several times but nothing has changed. Only fire tenders are insured. A fire fighter is entitled to general insurance if he is hurt while on the vehicle," said Hanuman Sihag, chief fire officer Gurgaon.
"We work in risky and hostile conditions. There are chances that one of us gets hurt, or worse, someone can even die. But unfortunately, there is no insurance cover for us. We don't even have medical insurance to help us if we get injured," said a fire official on the condition of anonymity.
Recently, a fire fighter had seriously injured his thumb in action. However, he was lucky since a private hospital in Gurgaon offered treatment at no cost, he added.
Apart from absence of basic insurance, these daredevils have been meagre allowances for years. "We get R17 as washing allowance for a month and R600 as festival allowance since 1994," an official said.
Besides low pay and no security from the government, the fire department also deals with inadequate staff and equipment. Gurgaon has only three fire stations and one substation at Udyog Vihar Phase I with only 109 fire fighters at work. The department works with only 25 fire tenders and two hydraulic platforms, which can reach a height of only 42 metres.
Such figures are startling in a city which has around 800 hi-rise buildings, including many that are more than 70 metres high. Hamilton Court, Gurgaon's highest building, is 90 metres tall.