Lack of safety a cause for concern at Vidhana Soudha, High Court

Lack of safety a cause for concern at Vidhana Soudha, High Court

The recent fire tragedy at Maharashtra’s secretariat, which claimed five lives and injured many others, should be an eye-opener for those in the corridors of power in Karnataka.

It has been years since a fire drill was conducted for employees of the Vidhana Soudha, the Vikasa Soudha and the High Court.  Government officials maintain that the danger was minimal from fire threats.

Fire and Emergency Services Director, B G Chengappa, also claimed that as prominent public buildings in Bangalore are not high-rise structures, there was little need for drills.

“While regular mock drills are necesary for high rises, it is not mandatory to be implemented for public buildings,” he said. “It is unlikely that lives will be lost in the event of a fire accident.”

Chengappa also claimed that fire drills would disrupt government and judicial proceedings.

“Besides, the buildings have spacious corridors which will help people exit with minimal problems,” he added.

But the director admitted that the Fire Department will soon be setting up a 24-hour squad at the High Court complex to avert any fire tragedy. 

Staff know no safety tools

Even though fire extinguishers are present at designated locations and water services are available for prompt deployment in emergencies, many employees of the High Court have no clue of established emergency procedures. Many even expressed ignorance of when the last drill was conducted.

An employee working at the old Karnataka Government Insurance Department spoke to Deccan Herald on the condition of anonymity, claiming that as important documents and precious orders are stored in many sections of the High Court complex, it is necessary to have fire drills so that people can have a practical experience on how to react during crisis.

“Many of us don’t even know how to use the fire extinguishers placed at different corners here,” he added. But the Registrar General of the High Court, P Krishna Bhat, said that the High Court was prepared for all emergencies.

“The building is equipped to face any fire challenge as there is adequate staff to tackle problems. Also, sprinklers are installed in sensitive position. The Fire Department has also established a seperate cell in the High Court grounds to assist us during emergencies,” he said.

The Registrar (Administration) Chandra Shekar said that four members of the Fire Department (the team numbers eight) are present at the High Court at any given time, but admitted that he had no information of when the last drill was conducted.

“Fire Department officials need to be contacted for that information,” he said.

By Fire Department standards, even the Vidhana Soudha is not considered a high-rise building, although it is expected that it’s stone construction will prevent the spread of fire.

“We need to thank those behind the construction of the Vidhana Soudha. The building, by construction itself, will not face any serious problems as it is made of stone and can resist fire damage,”said a top ranking official from the Fire Department.

But critics said that safety regulations are not properly addressed in public buildings. As an example, they point out the Vikasa Soudha, which a decade after its construction, still does not possess a no-objection certificate.

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