State chief secretary JK Banthia has occupied the haphazardly renovated sixth floor of Mantralaya’s main building without obtaining a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the fire brigade department.
According to fire brigade officials, Banthia was warned not to occupy the sixth-floor office until he was furnished with an NOC. “We wanted to conduct the proper inspection of the floor and his cabin. His floor is not yet fire safe,” an official said.
Mantralaya is ill-equipped to handle fires. “They haven’t installed a proper fire-fighting system on the sixth floor. The number of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, sprinklers and hose reels isn’t adequate, and most of these items are missing. Electric wiring, which lies naked on floor, is not properly concealed. This can easily spark a short circuit, leading to a major fire again,” said a senior fire brigade officer.
A source privy to the development said that because Banthia wanted to take charge of his swanky office so much that he ignored fire brigade warnings.
Deputy chief fire officer PS Ranhandale told dna that he had not yet received a file from Mantralaya seeking an NOC. The inferno that gutted Mantralaya over a year ago claimed six lives and caused major damage to government property and documents, paralysing the administrative functioning of the state.
“We warned Banthia and even gave a list of fire safety measures to be taken to the public works department (PWD). But PWD is in no mood to listen to us. They feel they are superior and can do anything,” a fire officer said.
“If something untoward happens in the future, we should not be held responsible,” he said.
When dna contacted Banthia, he said he was not aware of the fire brigade’s suggestions.
“Civic body chief Sitaram Kunte, under whom the fire brigade department comes, is on the Mantralaya redevelopment committee. He has never spoken to us of fire safety measures or the NoC. Why is the fire brigade raising this issue now? I am surprised,” said Banthia.
Piles of wooden furniture, chairs and tables are lying on the sixth floor, a senior Mantralaya officer said. “Renovation work is still on. A small spark could cause a major fire. Why are government officials in a hurry to occupy offices. Let the fire brigade do its job properly. We should not compromise on fire safety measures. We also attend meetings called by the chief secretary; our lives are also at risk. If something happens to our lives, who will compensate our families,” said an officer.