NEW DELHI: The Kamala Mills fire in Mumbai last week in which 14 people were killed is the latest major blaze to have gutted a city establishment in the country. It serves to highlight not only the poor state of emergency services but also inadequate safety regulations.
The Ministry of Home Affairs is now working on an overarching legislation to expand the reach of fire brigades and emergency services personnel by integrating their roles under a single entity. The proposed law also seeks to arm fire services personnel with policing powers.
The model law was proposed after a meeting held by the Director General of Fire Services and Civil Defence, Prakash Misra, with representatives from all states. The new rules that are being considered would apply to all structures from pucca restaurants to canvas tents.
The number of fire stations will also be increased especially in rural areas. Sources said Home Minister Rajnath Singh is keen to have new regulations in place by the Budget Session of the Parliament to deal with criminal neglect that led to fires like in Mumbai, Delhi Museum and Kerala temple fire of 2016.
“The idea is also to increase presence of fire stations in mofussil towns. Punjab, for instance, has just 59 fire stations that reflect poor penetration of emergency services,” a senior officer of MHA said.
The home ministry is in consultation with the Union Law Ministry to vet the draft legislation.
The draft bill suggests that each state should have a single fire and emergency service. All officers currently serving with different authorities — municipal corporations, panchayats and zilla parishads — may be absorbed in the new set-up. The existing assets and liabilities of fire services with local bodies, such as municipalities, would be transferred to the new body by the respective state governments.
Each state government would also appoint a director who will have jurisdiction of the territory to deliver emergency services. The draft bill intends to give freedom to state governments to raise an auxiliary force by enrolling volunteers.
Deadly Blaze Killing 48 Every Day
According to National Crime Record Bureau
report of 2015, 17,700 people were killed in fire accidents across India, an average 48 deaths/day
42.1% of deaths (7,445 out of 17,700) due to fire in residential buildings
Maximum number of cases (4,087) was reported in Maharashtra
Out of the total deaths reported under ‘fire in commercial building’, 49.8% were reported in Karnataka
Overhauling Crippled System
The new law makes mandatory for anyone putting up a tent to display a declaration with signature that shows prescribed fire prevention and safety measures
If the declaration is forged, the person can be jailed for three months
New law empowers the director of fire services to remove encroachments in residential and commercial areas that may cause fire
Fire officers empowered to inspect any building/makeshift structure
Every residential complex and factory will have to appoint a fire safety officer, who will be trained and certified by the fire services
In case the water is not supplied to douse the blaze, the person responsible could be jailed for six months
Anyone willfully obstructing the firefighting and rescue operations could be imprisoned for three months
State governments to establish training centres for providing courses on firefighting and rescue operations