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Pune Patil estate slum fire: Many houses gutted; families left with nothing

The fire brigade got a call about the incident at 1:10 pm and by the time the fire was doused, the clocked had struck 3:42 pm

pune Updated: Nov 29, 2018 14:52 IST
Shalaka Shinde
Shalaka Shinde
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Patil estate,slum fire
A man watches as smoke billows from the Patil Estate slums in Shivajinagar on Wednesday. Twenty fire brigade vehicles and 20 water tankers were used to control the fire. There are 1,176 shanties in Patil Estate area. ((Photo by Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)

The walking stick of Mangal Jadhav was stuck deep in the sludge, which was formed when sewage got mixed with water which was released from a fire hose used for dousing the fire at Patil Estate on Wednesday. Jadhav limped forward across the strewn belongings of her neighbours’ household items as she took in the sight of the rubble that was once her house.

Her bare feet kept marching forward even as people around her physically tried to stop her from going near the wooden and tin mess, which she had called her home. “You see the saree that I’m wearing? This is all I have left. My daughter goes to college. No one was at home. Our documents, clothes, belongings, everything is gone,” Jadhav said.

As young men distributed biscuits among the slum dwellers, people who had walked out of the slum with gas cylinders, television sets, refrigerators and clothes during the fire incident were seen returning with their belongings. The movement of people, along with gas cylinders, was on even though the fire authorities had warned them against doing so.

“There were at least five-six incidents where the cylinders inside the houses burst (and enraged the fire further),” said Ranpise.

SannuSiddiqui ran towards the fire with tears streaming down her eyes as she yelled her 12-year-old son’s name frantically looked for him in lane 5 of Patil Estate. After around 20 minutes of frenzied yelling and attempts to reach the spot where the fire was raging, Siddiqui was informed that her husband had found her son. Her house, however, was gutted.

Similar chaos ensued as people and children ran amok in the crammed space in Patil Estate slum.

CRAMMED SPACE CAUSED TROUBLE

The fire brigade got a call about the incident at 1:10 pm and by the time the fire was doused, the clocked had struck 3:42 pm. In the intervening time, entire houses were reduced to rubble in almost all of the 10 lanes of Patil Estate in Wakdewadi area near Shivajinagar.

The crammed spaces made it difficult for the hose to reach the interior areas of the slum.However, residents helped the fire brigade pull the water hose above their houses in order to reach the spot where the fire had engulfed the houses. On the other hand, a few residents created chaos near the fire trucks as they tried to shut and turn the water supply back on without consulting the fire brigade officials.

Authorities and volunteers had to climb on top of buildings to douse the fire.

The affected were rehabilitated at a PMC school. (Photo by Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

Second fire in a week

The massive fire at Patil Estate slums in Shivajinagar is second such incident in the area within a week and the city’s fifth major blaze where shanties were gutted in the past five years. The slum, located on the old Pune-Mumbai highway, is one of the biggest in the city and has witnessed multiple fire incidents in the past with the recent being a minor fire gutting three shanties on Monday.

According to civic officials, the land where the fire incident took place was reserved for the College of Engineering, Pune, before it was encroached upon by slums. While the state government wanted a slum rehabilitation project to be implemented for the residents of Patil Estate slums, the proposal hasn’t moved forward as majority of slum dwellers did not give their nod.

Rajendra Joshi, a city-based social worker, said that the slums is spread over 6 acres, including the 2.5 acre reserved for College of Engineering, Pune.

“A few years ago, there was an attempt to develop these slums under the slum rehabilitation authority (SRA) scheme and the services of Mumbai-based builder Polestar estates & properties (private) limited was taken to prepare a plan to develop it. However, the SRA plan remained on paper due to political reasons,” said Joshi.

Joshi said that the Monday fire had gutted the shanty of local resident Parshuram Jagtap and the latest blaze also took place in the same area, leaving Jagtap’s family devastated.

Admitting that slums have come up over the years on the land reserved for College of Engineering, Pune, Prashant Waghmare, Pune municipal corporation (PMC) city engineer, said, “It is now declared as slum as per the PMC records.”

Meanwhile, member of legislative council (MLC) Anil Bhosale and Pune mayor Mukta Tilak said that the civic authorities have made the necessary arrangements to provided accommodation to the families affected by the fire at Bharat english school located near Shivajinagar bus stand and Narveer Tanaji Wadi school at Na Ta Wadi.

Pune member of parliament Anil Shirole, Tilak, Bhosale and municipal commissioner Saurabh Rao visited the spot and asked the administration to take necessary steps to help the affected slum dwellers.

Recent major slum blazes in the city

In April 2018, around 75 shanties were gutted in fire at Ambedkarnagar slums in Market Yard

In 2017, around 50 hutments were destroyed in a Mangalwar peth slum fire

In 2016, 1,000 huts were destroyed in a blaze at Hirabaug slums

In 2013, around 400 huts were reduced to ashes after a fire broke out at Ambedkarnagar slums

Firefighter shortage hits emergency services

The Pune fire department has 490 trained staff and 13 fire stations across the city with 73 vehicles. However, for a city with over three million residents, the manpower and infrastructure available is woefully inadequate, said Prashant Ranpise, chief fire officer, adding that ideally, Pune should have 30 fire stations with over 100 functional vehicles and manpower of 1,500 trained professionals.

First Published: Nov 29, 2018 14:52 IST