In the dark and dusty corridors

Safety Concerns
Last Updated 11 April 2014, 15:46 IST

It’s easy to blame the government for its many lacks and misgivings. But what the public tends to miss out on is the often pitiable conditions that government officials work in.

There will always be certain higher officials and ministers who live in mansions and work in fancy offices. But for employees of the tall Visvesvaraya Towers for instance, where many State government offices are housed, the daily routine includes passing cobweb-filled corridors, walking by paan-stained walls and even being distracted by pigeons fluttering outside their windows. Metrolife visited the building to see the situation first-hand.

Old furniture clumsily thrown around, dark corridors even at 11 am and dirty walls are the first sights on entering.

 “There are a lot of departments which have been growing in size over the years. Because of that, there is a lot of accumulated furniture, heaps of old files etc that need to be disposed of. They’re gathering dust but the ‘concerned department’ is yet to clear up the mess,” informs Kumar, a first division assistant in the Public Works Department (PWD).

Asked about the paan stains on the walls, he replies that the job has been outsourced to the housekeeping department and that security guards have been hired to prevent vandalism in the building. On why certain stretches are dark to walk in even during the day, he answers that it is the electrical department’s job.

“We have inspections every now and then. But the ongoing work depends on grants and NOCs (No Objection Certificates) . We will look into the problem areas and improve the situation,” he assures. But even the safety he speaks of is a joke, given that anybody can enter without as little as showing an identity proof or document to show the intent of visit.

“It’s surprising that in a government office, there’s no checking or monitoring done to see who’s coming in or leaving the premises. I don’t find the building maintenance too shabby but safety is definitely a concern,” shares Sushmita, a visitor.

A source from the Fire and Emergency Services says that the building was constructed without the required No Objection Certificate issued by them, though they have procured it since.

 “The rule is that such is that for such a tall building (over 80 metres height), 16 metres of open space is a must, which is not the case with Visvesvaraya Towers. Another requisite was for it to have two staircases and finally, after a lot of persuasion, one has been put outside the building,” says the source.

Stating the positive points, he adds, “In terms of the fire fighting system, there’s one wet riser — a pipeline that goes from the basement to the top floor with an outlet at each level. Since it’s a government office, a separate emergency squad has been sanctioned there and the officer checks each floor every day.

It’s safer than many other unauthorised buildings and it’s good that it’s not overcrowded, which would have been the case if it came under a private operator. Still, there needs to be more focus on preventing emergencies.”

If a clean-up were to be done of the building, who knows what the results could be! Better working conditions might even lead to higher efficiency of the government, or so one can hope.

(Published 11 April 2014, 15:46 IST)

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