Of the various fire safety directives issued by the Supreme Court for schools, it seems, the education department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is only concerned about the norm pertaining to fire extinguishers.
In response to an RTI query on the compliance of safety norms in schools across the city, the department failed to provide information about any other parameter, except for the fire extinguishers.
While replying to an RTI plea filed by Vihar Durve, the education department revealed that of the 3,578 fire extinguishers in the BMC’s jurisdiction, only 1,043 —nearly 30% — were refilled in 2010-11, while the rest will be refilled in 2011-12.
The civic department, however, refrained from providing any details on the fulfillment of any other criteria. “The Supreme Court orders mention various parameters such as whether the building has been constructed as per the National Building Code, life of the building and so on. The incomplete response raises doubts about whether the civic body has been inspecting the schools regularly or no. Longevity of the building is one of the most crucial aspects as majority of the structures in the city are old,” said Durve.
Following a fire accident in Lord Krishna Middle School in Kumbakonam, the apex court had issued several directions to ensure safer school conditions for children. It includes installation of fire extinguishers in all government and private schools. Moreover, it specifies on the need to impart training to the staff and other officials of the school to use the fire extinguishers. Periodical evaluation of the school structure, compliance with the National Building Code by concerned engineers and officials and issuance of safety certificate only after proper inspection are the other conditions.
When questioned about the civic response, education officer, MN Baig, said: “I am in a meeting and won’t be able to speak now. I will give you the details on Thursday.”
Retired education officer Abasaheb Jadhav said, “As per the Supreme court order, the fire extinguishers have been installed. If they are not refilled, then following a check, the official concerned should be questioned.”
“We had conducted camps for the school staff. We had also inspected the schools for compliance with the fire safety norms on parameters such as evacuation routes, open spaces and so on,” said a fire official, refusing to comment on whether the structures were built as per the National Building Code or no.