After a gap of six years, the Delhi Fire Services (DFS), which is reeling under a severe staff crunch, is going to induct nearly 600 firefighters this year.The move comes after the Delhi government, on August 4, got a go-ahead from the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) to continue its recruitment process for fire operators. Manoj Parida, additional chief secretary of the Delhi government, said, “The recruitment would have taken place last October had some complainants not filed a plea against our recruitment process. On August 4 this year, we won the case in CAT, which has now allowed us to go ahead and recruit the 594 individuals we had selected last year.”DFS chief fire officer, Atul Garg, however, said even after inducting the 594 personnel, there would still be over 590 vacant posts. “This recruitment drive would cover up only 40 per cent of the total number of vacancies in DFS. The last time we recruited firefighters was in 2012. Not a single employee has been recruited since,” he said. According to government data, there are 3,623 sanctioned posts across departments in the DFS, of which only 1,982 are occupied. Fire operators said they are the ones who have to bear the brunt.A firefighter from the Laxmi Nagar fire station said, “Our duty continues for around 12 hours. No one complains anymore as it has become an untold norm here. We generally get 10 hours of rest after duty hours. However, when there is an emergency or if another operator is ill, we have to report to work.”When asked about the recruitment drive, Garg said “the process is on”. Recruitments in DFS, are carried out by the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB) — a department currently under the jurisdiction of the Delhi LG.Repeated calls and messages to Geetanjali Gupta — principal secretary of the DSSSB — for a comment went unanswered.A senior fire official said previously, the department has written several times to the DSSSB and other top bureaucrats in the Delhi government to start recruiting more firefighters but to no avail. “Recently, we also held meetings with the chief secretary and the additional CS, who is also the principal secretary (home),” he said.After conducting a five-year long audit of the DFS, the Comptroller and Auditor General had, in its March 2015 report, stated that in case of a fire emergency, the fire service is not only “ill-equipped” but also “well short of staff”.Fire experts believe the government has “long” neglected this department. “The staff crunch has been there forever now and this impacts the performance of firefighters,” former DFS chief SK Dheri, who had led the fire department during the Uphaar Cinema fire tragedy in 1997, said.