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Fire safety norms flouted, BMC standing committee raps Mumbai Fire Brigade

After the Mumbai Fire Brigade (MFB) sent notices to 29 malls in Mumbai in the past one month for non-compliance of fire safety norms, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) standing committee on Wednesday questioned as to why these malls are still open to public despite show-cause notices from MFB. The committee also raised questions about corruption in MFB.

The committee demanded that malls, which received MFB notice, be shut for the period granted by MFB to ensure compliance to the norms. If a fire incident takes place during this time, the officer signing off on the notice should be charged for culpable homicide under section 304(a) of the Indian Penal Code, the committee demanded.

This comes in the aftermath of the massive fire that gutted City Centre mall on October 22. MFB took more than 56 hours to douse the fire after it was declared a brigade call (highest level of fire according to the fire brigade’s standard operating procedure). Subsequently, the standing committee had alleged irregularities in the mall. While BMC’s approved plan showed only 344 shops in the mall, the fire brigade’s preliminary report on the fire had recorded 1,344 shops.

MFB then sent notices to 29 other malls over the past month and the list was submitted by the fire brigade to the standing committee on Wednesday.

Leader of the opposition Ravi Raja said, “If a notice has been served to a mall, it means the mall is fire non-compliant. During this time, the fire brigade should ensure the mall remains closed to public.”

The committee also alleged corruption in MFB for using its authority to vacate tenants of buildings (citing fire non-compliance) for the benefit of private builders. Standing committee chairman Yashwant Jadhav, corporator from Byculla, said, “On Tuesday midnight, I received a call from tenants of a private building in my area that MFB, the Mumbai Police and BEST employees were forcefully vacating the building citing non-compliance to fire safety norms and that the building was dilapidated. When I asked for papers, it turned out that these reasons were not true.”

He added, “BMC machinery is being used to suit the whims of private builders who want the building to be vacated. I have directed the fire brigade to inquire against the officer present during this incident and submit a report in two days.”

When HT spoke to chief fire officer (CFO) Shashikant Kale on Wednesday evening, he did not give a comment on these issues.

BMC demotes CFO Shashikant Kale

BMC on Wednesday demoted CFO Shashikant Kale to the position of deputy CFO, and set up an inquiry against him for concealing information in an application for Presidential medal for firemen. Deputy CFO KV Hivrale has been given the charge of CFO until the inquiry against Kale is completed.

Confirming the update, a senior civic official said, “It came to light that during Kale’s tenure as DCFO in MFB, he was awarded a punishment. He concealed this information while making his application for the Presidential medal last week. The CFO charge has been taken away from him temporarily until the inquiry into this incident is complete.”

Kale was suspended from the MFB in 2014 regarding issuance of a no-objection certificate for a new construction project, and an inquiry was set up against him. After serving four years in Thane Fire Brigade, Kale was made CFO of MFB in August 2020.

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