Do We Care That 59 Indians Lose Their Lives To Fire Accidents Every Day?

Posted by Jayant Mundhra (J.T.) in Society
February 8, 2017

I am a resident of Faridabad. So, there is this area named, Greater Faridabad where many high-rise residential towers are coming up. Omaxe, Puri Constructions, BPTP Builders and several others have turned the farmlands there into clusters of tall and luxurious apartments. And, no doubt the development in the region has really picked up in recent years with a large number of families having shifted to these apartments. The population there is booming owing to influx from a lot of neighbouring areas especially the NCR.

Now, when we are talking about such new, modern and luxurious apartments in tall buildings, a very critical parameter has to be addressed. What is it? It’s security of life from sudden unpredictable disasters – like earthquakes or massive fire breakouts.

It happened last year. Maa and I were asleep in the room when a huge uproar broke out. A lot of people were shouting. I opened my eyes to find myself, and maa drenched in sweat. The temperature in the room was damn high! I rushed and opened the balcony door to find out what was going on. The apartment above ours was on fire.

We live on the 8th floor of the building. There are 18 Floors in total. The fire was on the 9th floor. And, for the next two hours, the fire could not be tamed or controlled by the firefighters. Why? Because there was no high rise fire fighting vehicle in Faridabad! None of their vehicles could actually reach beyond the 5th floor.

So, imagine the grim situation. This is the best example of security through obscurity. The Government had allowed the construction of high-rise buildings in the area despite not being ready for the disasters that could happen. We were fortunate that no lives were lost, and the fire did not spread. But, just in case had the fire gone unbridled for some more time, the firefighting units would have had only one option left – to stand there with us and moan over the disaster.

It is because of such lack of preparedness to prevent and tackle such disasters that we lose as many as 59 lives on a daily basis in India to fire accidents. We simply don’t have enough personnel. And, the existing personnel aren’t equipped enough. The equipment we have are mostly old and not suitable for the present alarming needs.

A recent report by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) says that our nation faces a paucity of fire fighting stations by as much as 97.54%! That means, whatever marginal, worn-out and limited resources we have only account for 2.46% of the needed count of fire stations.

Needless to say, the majority of these stations would be present in the main cities, towns and highly populated areas. So what about the rest of the population? Article 21 of the Indian Constitutions lays emphasis on the Fundamental Right To Life. But, isn’t this gargantuan neglect of this domain of fire stations and firefighting, a contravention of the aforementioned right itself? Think about those who have died due to this neglect every single day in our country.

However, while castigating the authorities and the respective governments, there is another very crucial section that needs to buttress this movement. It is us, the citizenry. How many of us were actually interested when a ‘fire security week’ was organised in our society, school or college? I hope most of us would have at least heard of those. When I was in Grade 11, the local fire fighters had organised one for us. I can vividly remember how most of us actually tried to bunk the session as we could have just hung around enjoying a free period.

Even when one was organised in my society, hardly 50 people participated. In a society housing almost a thousand people, only fifty people came out to check what life-saving lessons they could learn.

And, most of these too were women. And this gives me an itch. Are we even looking at the gravity of the situation? It is of utmost need that we realise our role in this big picture and join hands to tackle this critical imperative.

At last, I would like to extend my gratitude to the Honourable Member of Parliament, Jay Panda for being the only parliamentarian to have at least raised a demand to look into the matter in the Lower House of the Parliament on December 5, 2016. I hope the matter gains some traction and witnesses some action in the times to come. I sincerely wish the concerned authorities and the incumbent Central and State Governments will not keep waiting for a big blunder to happen before we wake up to the reality.

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Image source: Hindustan Times/Getty Images

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