Fire service department credibility at stake

The tragic death of a woman welfare officer, Nalini, during a mock drill at an apparel factory in Yeshwantpur on Friday, has raised questions about the credibility of the Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services, which conducted the exercise.

This is the first such incident in the history of the fire and emergency services department in Karnataka, sources said.

A R Infant, Director General of Police for Fire and Emergency Services, said, “Ours is a well-equipped force known for its credibility. Normally, our staff take all preventive measures during a drill. Friday’s incident is a rare case. A detailed inquiry will reveal whether negligence of our staff had caused the incident.”

“The police are also conducting an inquiry simultaneously. We will verify what went wrong and how the accident occurred. We will look into all the aspects of the incident and take stern action against the staff if they are found to have been negligent during the drill,” he added.

A senior officer of the Fire Department admitted a certain amount of negligence on the part of his staff who conducted the mock drill. They had not checked the quality of the rope used in the exercise. As per norms, they should have tied a net below the window. However, the staff did not carry a net with them. Had there been a net at the drill spot, Nalini would have survived, he added.

The staff did not feel the net was necessary as they have conducted thousands of mock drills without it. Hence, no one should blame them alone for the incident, he said.

N U Erappa, the officer in charge of the drill, said normally the fire department staff did such activities. Nalini requested them to give her a chance and they obliged, he said, adding he had taken enough safety measures.

Nagesh, a representative of Bombay Rayon Fashions Limited, the apparel factory where Nalini worked, termed the incident unfortunate. “It is an unexpected incident. We can’t blame the Fire department, as the first person (in the drill) came out of the window successfully. The company will give her family a compensation in accordance with the firm’s rules,” he said.

DIG Infant said the department would also seriously consider a compensation for Nalini. “We will write to the State government in this regard,” he said.

Nalini’s classmate Mangala, also a welfare officer in a garment factory on the same premises, recalled the incident. “I was in my office. Someone said a worker in the next factory had fallen down during a mock drill. I rushed to the spot and was shocked to see Nalini lying on the ground in a pool of blood.”

Sumitha, a colleague of the victim, said: “We were watching the drill. Nalini was extremely happy when she was selected for the drill. She told me she would do it comfortably. I was watching her come out of the window. I could see her trying to balance herself. Within seconds, she fell down.”

Nalini came to Bangalore a few years ago and completed her Master’s in Social Work from Anupama College near Shankar Mutt in Basaveshwarnagar. She joined Bombay Rayon Fashions Limited one-and-half-years ago as welfare officer. She was staying with her younger brother Harish who is pursuing MBA in a City college. The victim’s parents, Ramakrishna Reddy and Lakshmidevamma, are into farming at Gauribidnur.
The factory management declared a holiday soon after the incident, fearing protest by the staff.

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