At least 20 people, mostly labourers and shopkeepers, were killed and several others seriously injured when a major fire broke out in the dingy and overcrowded Surja Sen market at Sealdah in Kolkata at 3:50 am on Wednesday.
Twenty-six firefighters struggled for over three hours to douse the flames in the six-storey market complex. West Bengal Fire Services Minister Javed Khan said there were no fire safety provisions in place in the complex. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the spot immediately, announced `2 lakh each for the kin of the deceased and `50,000 for the injured.
Ordering a joint probe by the police, fire department and municipal corporation into the blaze, Mamata said, “the government will be strict about safety conditions in buildings like this one. I am not in favour of destroying people’s livelihoods. Only those hazardous buildings, which are a threat, will be taken down. Mischief-makers can also cause damage. Everything will be investigated to find out the cause of the fire.” The report of the investigation would be submitted in three days, she added. The ruling TMC was quick to smell a “Left conspiracy” in the blaze. The party alleged that the marketplace was illegal and had come up during the Left rule. “We will ask for an independent inquiry. An immediate and impartial probe must be initiated and the administration must seriously look into how many buildings there are vulnerable to fire,” reacted Surjya Kanta.