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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

Fire brigade vehicles idle as staff crunch, apathy rein

Sanjeev Bhalla, Hindustan Times  Kapurthala, February 10, 2013
First Published: 18:01 IST(10/2/2013) | Last Updated: 18:03 IST(10/2/2013)

Two vehicles purchased over seven months ago at a cost of Rs. 15 lakh by the fire brigade department have not been put to use, as the municipal council has reportedly failed to pay the requisite fee for getting a registration number.

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"Without a registration number, log-book of the vehicles cannot be maintained. We cannot just use the vehicles without entering it into the log-book, as this could invite punitive action," said a fire-brigade employee.

A Bolero Jeep, purchased at around Rs. 9.5 lakh, converted into a mini-rescue van, to combat incidents especially in congested areas is lying defunct. A motorcycle was also bought at Rs. 5 lakh, but was handed over to the department after five months.

However, it has not been used due to staff shortage.

"Both the vehicles are lying idle. Fire brigade officials had no funds. Even the fine for late application of registration number was paid by one of its staff from its own kitty," a source in the department said.

The current fire tenders with the department have been in service for more than 15 years.

To meet the shortage of staff, two drivers and three firemen were appointed on contract basis. However, all, bar one driver, was removed from their jobs without notice, claimed a dismissed employee Mangat Lal.

“We have to work round-the-clock even if one of us is on leave. It becomes really hectic and cumbersome. Municipal council has got the approval for filing vacant posts. However, the process has not yet been set in motion,” said an official.

Kapurthala fire brigade caters to a large area and the workload is intense during the wheat-harvesting season. In 2012, nearly 160 incidents were reported.

When contacted, fire officer Gurmit Singh admitted to the shortage of funds and staff.

“The DTO asked us to deposit Rs. 20,000 as fee for road tax etc. We had sent our file to the council for necessary action. The need of appointing more staff is also under their consideration.”

When contacted, executive officer of municipal council SK Aggarwal said: “There is no shortage of funds with us for applying for registration of vehicles. I would check on this. As far as appointment of deficient staff is concerned, the matter is under consideration of the local bodies department. Necessary action will be taken after getting their views.”

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