The morale of the Mumbai fire brigade department – which has lost four of its senior officers to a single fire incident – is at an all-time low. The department, which is already struggling because of lack of resources, is now grappling with a vacuum in its upper ranks.
The department has for long been mired in controversy, and has seen no new recruitments in the recent past. In fact, it has been operating without a fulltime chief since 2010.
Sunil Nesarikar was given the additional charge of chief fire officer last year in July, after AN Varma – who also had additional charge – was removed from the post for his ‘inefficiency,’ following the Lotus Business Park fire incident.
After being removed from the post, Varma has been on leave, and is likely to retire by the end of this month.
It’s not just the fire chief ’s post – most of the seven posts of deputy chief fire officer, who are second in command to chief fire officer, have been lying vacant.
At present, the department is without an in-charge, and has only two experienced deputy fire officers, in KV Hivrale and PS Rahangdale. The post earlier occupied by deputy chief fire officer SG Amin’s post is also vacant, in the wake of his death.
The morale has also dipped because of rampant in-fighting among senior officers, court cases over top posts and allegations of corruption being levelled against many other officers. Deputy chief fire officer Shashikant Kale was suspended last year for alleged graft. He was in charge of zone-2.
To add to this, a uniform scam, the lack of teams to conduct fire audits, the absence of advanced technology has also affected the department’s performance.