Elevators tend to make our lives easier in vertically-developed cities. But in Maharashtra, it is usually a troublemaker. Its latest victim is state industries minister Narayan Rane, who was stuck last week for about 40 minutes in the elevator of a commercial complex in Santacruz.
The incident has once again kicked off the debate on the way elevators are being maintained in the state. Because of the poor maintenance, a few outdated laws and their sub-standard execution, elevator-related accidents have been on the rise. What is further worrying is that around 7% of the scheduled inspection were carried out in the state last year.
On April 20, 2010, the state government had appointed a committee under the chairmanship of chief engineer (electrical), public works department (PWD), with the objective of meeting the target of lift inspections and thereby reducing the number of accidents. As per the committee report, till 2010, there were about 86,154 lifts operating in Maharashtra and about 5,000-6,000 lifts are added every year.
Mohammed Afzal, a social activist who had filed a PIL seeking greater safety for lifts in 2010, said according to the existing law, if each lift is to be examined twice a year, there should be 1,72,308 inspections in a year. But in 2011, only 12,291 inspections were carried out in the state.
"The highest number of inspections carried out by the state government is 22,813 in 2009. But even then, only about 13% of the required inspections were done," Afzal told HT.
If this is not already alarming, a fortnight ago, the state government informed the Bombay high court that it was considering bringing about an amendment to the Bombay Lifts Act, 1939, to reduce the number of annual lift inspections to be carried out from twice a year to once a year.
According to the committee report, only eight states in the country have a fixed frequency for inspection. Gujarat carries lift inspection every six months by outsourcing it. Also, once in three years elevators are checked by government-appointed inspectors.
"It is not about reducing the state government's burden, but about ensuring public safety. It is difficult to understand how the reduction in the number of inspections year will reduce elevator-related accidents. Although the number of fatal accidents may appear to be few, every human life should be saved," Afzal said.