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Fear among firemen: ‘Without insurance, what will our families do if we die?’

During a reality check in Amritsar on Tuesday, it was learnt that the situation is grim here. Here, the fire staff say they have not even got salaries for the past three months. 

punjab Updated: Nov 22, 2017 10:17 IST
Nikhil Sharma
Nikhil Sharma
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Ludhiana factory collapse,death factory,13 dead
Having no life insurances done by the government despite repeated claims and promises by ministers, the tragedy in which at least 13 lives were lost, including those of firemen, has led to the insecurity. (HT Photo)

The Ludhiana factory disaster on Monday has left firemen across the state anxious about the fate of their families after them.Having no life insurances done by the government despite repeated claims and promises by ministers, the tragedy in which at least 13 lives were lost, including those of firemen, has led to the insecurity.

During a reality check in Amritsar on Tuesday, it was learnt that the situation is grim here.Here, the staff say they have not even got salaries for the past three months.Pertinently, two firemen recently transferred to Ludhiana from Amritsar also got trapped under the debris of the building there; one of them was declared dead on Monday.

Pradeep, a fireman at Faridkot, said without insurance and security gear, firefighters are put at risk by the government, and “that means the common citizens too are at risk”.

“What if we die while fighting flames? The Ludhiana fire is not the first of its kind, but the government continues to operate on sleep mode,” said Sadiq Masih, a fire station officer in Amritsar. “Our families left behind will suffer as politicians will just make false promises. Local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu (MLA from Amritsar) had promised insurance cover for firemen across the state but nothing really moved.”

The Amritsar fire department is in a shambles. While norms say there needs to be a fire station for population of every 50,000, Amritsar has four fire stations serving 25 lakh people.The buildings in which the fire department functions are in a depilated state too.The total staff is 75.

Also read | Collapse of law: Who okayed the Ludhiana building? No one, says record

“People here are fearlessly constructing multi-storey buildings violating fire safety norms. In absence of a hydraulic platform, it becomes a huge challenge for us to control fires. We have eight fire tenders in the district which have normal ladders attached with them,” said a senior fire officer. “These ladders can reach up to 25 feet. In case of a major accident in a taller building, it becomes really difficult for us to douse the flames.”

Sandeep Kumar, a fireman in the city, said at least two incidents of fire are reported daily in Amritsar and thus there is a dire need to strengthen and equip the fire stations here.

Rohan Kalyan, another fireman, said, “We are working without salary for the past three months. There is no fire station in Tarn Taran or Beas, so our teams rush to the spot in case of emergency there too. In Amritsar, which is at high risk due to the narrow lanes, at times we even struggle to reach the spot in time.We risk our lives but are not treated well by the government. We are part of the defence of the state and should be given due respect and privileges.”

The situation is no different in other parts of the state. Pradeep, a fireman at Faridkot told HT over phone that without insurance and security gear, firefighters are put at risk by the government, and “that means the common citizens too are at risk”.

Ludhiana disaster: When firefighters used wet sacks as ‘safety suits’

‘Will take up in cabinet’

Local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, when contacted, said chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh is “very much concerned” about the safety of firefighters: “I am going to take up the insurance matter in the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.” He said the previous government got a grant of Rs 95 crore for upliftment of the fire department “but they didn’t spend it”.

First Published: Nov 22, 2017 10:16 IST