For the BMC, the safety of 2,500 firemen across Mumbai seems to hold little importance.
An audit report has revealed that 1,700 of the 2,320 firefighting gear provided to the force are of inferior quality. Under the audit conducted in 2012, all the personal protective equipment (PPE) bought in 2011 were inspected. The report has revealed that only 620 equipment were fit to use.
This means, the officials who rush to control fire and rescue citizens enter the building with inferior quality uniforms, which puts them at higher risk of flames, heat, heat stress and suffocation.
After the recent incidents of major fires, another safety gear that is used by firemen at present has been brought under the scanner. The move was necessitated after firemen complained of breathlessness and melting gumboots after the fire at Lotus Business Park in July last year.
Ten months after the incident and firemen still use the sub-standard quality uniforms.
Even after losing one fireman and two senior fire officials in less than a year, the civic body has shown no urgency in procuring good quality protective gears for the department.
The PPE, which refers to protective helmets, masks, boots and other garments designed to protect firefighters and rescue workers, were bought for Rs 29.34 crore in 2011. The new uniforms were said to be more breathable, and resist flames during sudden explosions. However, firemen said the PPE are rarely used.
The audit report had also demanded inquiry against the fire officer who checked the quality of the PPE and sanctioned the procurement.
Meanwhile, showing complete disregard to suggestions by various inquiries, the standing committee on Wednesday approved a proposal to procure ‘safety shoes’ at Rs828 which is 35% below the civic body’s estimate of Rs 1,260.
“The entire procedure to procure uniforms is hit by scams. Is the department worried about the quality specification of safety gear at all?” said Sandeep Deshpande, MNS group leader.
“The proposal presented to the standing committee is not firefighting boots, but shoes to be used by the staff in the department during drills and parade. The PPE matter is sub-judice and the payment to the contractor has been halted,” said Pallavi Darade, additional municipal commissioner.