SAFETY WATCH: Puja organisers in line of fire – ‘rules flouted to erect pandals’ – where religious fervour overtakes common ecological sense, wondering why the Gods hit back so cruelly ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Raiganj, Oct. 20: The fire department has lodged a complaint with North Dinajpur district magistrate against Puja organisers in Raiganj for erecting pandals without the minimum fire safety measures suggested by the authorities ahead of the festival.
The fire officers had initially wanted to file a police complaint but changed the decision fearing they would come under attack from the organisers.
“In a bid to avoid any fire mishap during the festival, we had held a meeting with different Puja organisers in the subdivisional officer’s chamber here. We discussed several safety measures and handed over to the pandal committees a list of dos and don’ts,” said Swarup Chandra Saha Roy, the in-charge of the Raiganj fire station.
The organisers were told that a pandal’s height should not exceed 40 feet and the roof should not be fixed to the ground.
“They were also told that the pandal’s interior should be a least 12 feet high and electric wires properly insulated. Adequate stock of sand and water should also have been kept at every pandal so that a possible blaze could be doused easily. For the fire department’s permission, the Puja organisers were also supposed to submit detailed sketches of the pandals, showing the nearest source of water reservoir,” said Roy.
He added that the fire department had warned the Puja organisers at the meeting that there would be inspections at the pandals to find out if the rules had been adhered to or not.
“However, the district administration did not co-operate with us when our staff members went to inspect the pandals. The firemen were not even provided with a single vehicle by the administration and they had to go to the pandals on motorcycles. During the inspections, we realised that not a single guideline to avoid fire mishaps had been followed by the organisers. Some of the pandals were built in such a manner that they could have been razed to the ground even before we could reach the spot,” said Roy.
There were 68 pandals in Raiganj during the Pujas and most of them were erected by different clubs.
The fire officer said the staff members on duty had come under attack from mobs many times in the past six months. “Six-seven firemen were injured in the attacks carried out in the presence of police. Even our vehicles were ransacked by the mob. So, we decided not to file any police complaint as we were afraid that the Puja organisers would target us,” he said.
Roy sought the district magistrate’s intervention to crack down on the errant pandal committees as there was “a possibility of a massive fire during Kali Puja”.
Sunil Dandapat, the district magistrate, said: “Ahead of Kali Puja and Diwali, we will check different pandals and if any irregularities are noticed, the organisers will not be allowed to proceed with the celebrations.”