Demand for better fire safety after Kolkata tragedy
Kolkata, Feb 28 : Reacting with rage to Wednesday's fire tragedy, Kolkata residents Thursday demanded better safety measures and asked the authorities to ensure compliance of norms to prevent such tragedies in future.
The massive blaze in the market complex in central Kolkata Wednesday that killed 19 people bore resemblance to the AMRI Hospital fire Dec 9, 2011, where 94 people were choked to death, and the Stephen Court fire that killed 45 people March 23, 2010.
"These incidents are being repeated year after year. Clearly people have not learnt any lessons from the past incidents. The government should be serious with regard to fire safety and strict about following rules," A. Ghosh, a finance professional in the industry, told IANS.
Divyasree Sinha, who lives in a highrise, felt compensation was not the way out.
"The government is responsible for enforcing safety norms and checking up whether the rules are being followed or not. Financially compensating the victims' families like that in the AMRI fire is fine, but it is not a way out. Compensation is not a solution," Sinha told IANS.
According to witnesses, the massive fire in the densely-populated Sealdah area began around 3:50 a.m. in the mezzanine floor of a multi-storey Surya Sen Market building and leapt up to the first and second floors where most of the victims were sleeping.
Much like the AMRI disaster, most victims were trapped inside the building and suffocated to death.
In the aftermath of the inferno that killed the labourers who were trapped inside, questions are being raised on proper infrastructure for marketplaces and warehouses.
"Buildings like the marketplace in Sealdah should be equipped with basic fire exits and fire fighting equipments like extinguishers, because much like the AMRI fire, inflammable goods were housed in the shops.
"The workers have no way but to sleep where they work. That should also be taken into consideration by the authorities," Vijay Jaiswal, owner of fan manufacturing company, told IANS.
As West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee responded to the catastrophe by announcing compensation of Rs.two lakh each to the kin of the dead and Rs.50,000 for the injured, Sinha lashed out at the government, accusing it of springing into action in the wake of such accidents and failing to keep up with long-term plans.
"Every time there is a fire or any such accident, the government stirs into action and declares so-and-so plans and projects.
"This won't do. Why does it fail to keep up with the plans and projects throughout the year? " Sinha said.
People in Kolkata are also wary of politicians using disasters and crimes to their advantage in their vendetta against the opposition.
"We may never know whether these incidents are a result of political agenda or not. These disasters might well have ulterior motives, because many fires occur in seemingly secure places like hospitals," Sanghmitra Mohanty, a homemaker told IANS.
Mohanty also lamented that people had become habituated to such incidents.
Pratyush Singh, resident of a posh area, agreed with Mohanty.
"Once the tragedies are out of the news, people forget about them," he told IANS.
But Santanu Das, branch manager of a life insurance company, said people should also take it upon themselves to be cautious about fire safety issues.
"Each one of us should be cautious. We should be responsible for our own safety. Prevention is better than cure. The government might help us out, but it is up to us to take the first step," Das told IANS.