The major fire that gutted several offices of the Mantralaya on Thursday has also raised serious questions about the administration’s claims about having an efficient disaster management system in place.
“Yesterday’s event revealed that firstly, the state is utterly unprepared for any eventuality, and secondly, that a sense of complacency has crept into our administration,” retired chief secretary DM Sukhtankar said.
Not only was the state’s administration centre seriously damaged on Thursday, but many Mumbaiites also had to face mile-long traffic jams as the administration shut down vital roads while tackling the disaster.
Thursday’s fire brought out two glaring failures in the administration: having a strong disaster management system in place, and the inability of urban planning to mitigate such disasters. Since the 1980s, the state has been mooting a proposal to shift the seat of the administration, or at least some of the departmental head offices, to the satellite township of Navi Mumbai.
But this did not come about, and neither has anything been done to augment the security measures at Mantralaya, which daily sees at least 6,000 visitors.
“Basic fire fighting equipment such as smoke detectors and sprinklers were either not working, or not there at all in several places in the building, which only helped the fire spread,” former chief fire officer AD Jhandwal said.
Many officials are also questioning whether the present batch of state officials has the capacity to draft an effective disaster management or security plan.
“I do not think the PWD officials in the state are capable of planning an effective security or disaster management system, the government should rope in a private party to do this job,” Sukhthankar said.
Interestingly the BJP too has accused the state of sitting over a report submitted to it on improving fire fighting systems in Mantralaya.