by Ridhima Gupta
On December 17, a major fire engulfed Mumbai’s Employees State Insurance Corporation(ESIC) Hospital in Andheri (East). The tragedy that took lives of ten people – including a two-month-old baby left many in the state of horror. The fire that took place at the government hospital in one of Mumbai’s affluent areas, was not just an accident instead it was a result of grave negligence on the hospital authorities and BMC’s part. Just two days after the tragic incident another fire broke out in the hospital. However, no casualties took place this time. The Logical Indian looked into the details of the incident and found out that the mishap was followed by sheer negligence by the hospital authorities.
One ambulance for 300 patients
On Tuesday, at around 3 in the afternoon, the ESIC hospital saw a sudden commotion. Even before people could realize that the panic was because of the fire, the hospital was already engulfed with thick black smoke.
Not the first fire incident
According to the hospital employee, this was not the first time when such a mishap has happened in the hospital. On March 20, there was another fire incident in the hospital. Reportedly, the fire was caught up in the hospital’s kitchen. The staff had also written a letter to the hospital authorities, in which they highlighted the lack of safety measures in the hospital. “One of our staff members was injured in the fire, we complained about the same, but nothing was done even after that,” said the employee while talking to us.
He added saying that the hospital does not even have a fire extinguisher in place. “The one which were installed in the hospital had expired almost 11 months ago in January. The hospital did get some new extinguisher, but they were yet to be installed in the hospital premises,” the hospital staff lamented.
For the last few years, the hospital is undergoing construction work. While talking to The Hindu, Amruta Shelar, a nurse at the hospital, said, “We have been seeing this construction work for almost 10 years now. The debris is lying here and there. Why did the NBCC take so long? Their workers had placed material in the room that caught fire. Did they take permission? They had shut one exit too.” Previously, the F-ward in the hospital was shut down after the ward got inundated in rainwater.
The employee says that the hospital has been facing such problems from the last many years. They complained that at times the ceiling of the hospital had also fallen over the people. They said that the tragedy like this was meant to happen.
“The hospital should be clean, but on the contrary, it was always covered with dust and debris, just same days before the incident a Cobra emerged out of the scrap lying on the premises. How is this sort of conditions at the hospital good for the patients,” said another employee.
Hospital medical superintendent B.B. Gupta complied to the reports of lack of fire-fighting equipment except for a few fire extinguishers. “We were in the process of installing them. These things are looked into by the ESIC head office,” reports The Hindu.
According to the reports, ESIC hospital was not given No Objection Certificate (NOC) despite that the hospital was still functional. As per the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), the hospital was not given NOC as fire norms were not followed, however, regardless of that the hospital was operating.
Soon after the tragedy, that took away the lives of many the authorities started the blame game. When the Mumbai Mayor, Vishwanath Maheshwar was asked about the fire audits in the hospital, he blamed MIDC. However, the latter denied to take credit and blamed Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
No Fire safety compliance
The Logical Indian also spoke to the Mumbai-based activist, Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh, who has filled various RTI in the city to find out about the safety measure taken for private and public buildings.
According to him, no fire audit was not in ESIC hospital since 2007. He said that hospital authorities just renovated the hospital from the outside when from inside the hospital is in a dilapidated condition.
“After the Kamla Mills fire (that happened last years in Mumbai) I had filed many RTIs, one of them was about to inquire if all the private and government buildings in Mumbai have proper fire safety compliance. Replying to the RTI, the BMC and fire brigade said that they are not responsible for fire audits. However, according to the MIDC, it is the fire brigade’s job to look into the fire audit,” he told us.
He also told us that under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, there should be a compulsory audit in all private and public buildings to check safety compliance. “It is sad that only the act is made and nothing happens,” he added. According to another RTI filed by him, almost 48,434 fire incident has taken place in Mumbai in the last 10 years, killing 609 people.
Meanwhile, the Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Santosh Kumar Gangwar, visited the ESIC Hospital on December 18, Tuesday. The minister said that the State government would conduct an inquiry and submit a report to the Central government.