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Gujarat fire tragedy: SIT cites 'serious negligence' on part of officials, game zone owners

The operators of the TRP game zone carried out welding works for the construction of the proposed 'snow park' at the site despite knowing that the construction materials were highly inflammable, the SIT said in its preliminary report.
Last Updated : 03 June 2024, 16:50 IST
Last Updated : 03 June 2024, 16:50 IST

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Ahmedabad: Serious negligence on the part of the operators of the TRP game zone as well as officials of Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC), city police and Roads and Buildings Department caused the devastating fire on May 25 in which 27 lives were lost, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the Gujarat government to probe the tragedy said.

The operators of the TRP game zone carried out welding works for the construction of the proposed 'snow park' at the site despite knowing that the construction materials were highly inflammable, the SIT said in its preliminary report, which is part of the affidavit submitted on Monday by the state government to the Gujarat High Court hearing a suo motu PIL on the matter.

The SIT also said in its report, which was submitted to the Gujarat government on May 27, that the infrastructure of the game zone was not ready to meet fire exigencies.

Instead of separate entry and exit passages, there was only one way for both entry and exit and no separate arrangement for emergency exit, the SIT report pointed out.

The government had formed the five-member SIT headed by Additional Director General of Police Subhash Trivedi and directed it to file its preliminary report within 72 hours of the incident.

"Despite knowing that the material used for the construction of the game zone is highly inflammable, without any safety precaution, welding works were going on (for the proposed snow park)," it said, adding a welding machine and used welding rod were found from the site of the incident where construction of a snow park was going on.

Burnt and semi burnt pieces of foam sheet and tyre residue were also found around the welding machine and in the debris, it said.

No water inlet connection was given to the fire inlet, and only one fire extinguisher cylinder of dry chemical powder, which was earlier being used for restaurant and kitchen, was found from the spot, the report stated.

"Outside the shade, the fuel tank of the go-kart car was found intact and the presence of fuel was also evident," it said.

The SIT also highlighted 'serious negligence' on the part of police officials, who have since been suspended, in the issuance of performance license to the game zone under the Gujarat Police Act. The said officials neglected the fact that utmost care is required to be taken while granting such licenses when the place involves a congregation of a large number of people, the report added.

The police officials also did not carry out fire no-objection certificate verification, it said.

The SIT also said the RMC's town planning and fire departments were 'directly connected' to the incident.

"The TRP game zone had been in operation for more than three years and also saw pucca construction. However, no action was taken against it, and it was given free hand under the pretext of temporary structure," the SIT said.

"Since this place is non-agricultural land and can be used for residential purposes, commercial activities like a game zone cannot be carried out on it," the report further said.

Despite this, the local assistant town planning officer and assistant engineer displayed serious negligence in carrying out their duties, the SIT report said.

"It is found that no inspection was carried out by the concerned local station fire office in this regard, which clearly shows the sheer negligence on the part of the station fire officer of this area," it said.

While issuing a performance licence, the police need to take the opinion of the Roads and Buildings Department to ascertain the safety of the structure in a public place where a large number of people gather, the SIT said.

However, in this case, the then deputy executive engineer and the assistant engineer neglected such aspects while granting their opinion, the SIT report pointed out.

"In case of any adverse event, emergency exit through which people can come out and the staircase from first floor to ground floor was not verified," it said.

The government has suspended seven officers from RMC, R&B and police departments on the basis of the preliminary report submitted by the seven officers.

The police have so far named 11 persons as accused in the case, including six partners of the game zone and others whose names came up during investigation.

Of these, nine have been arrested while an accused, Prakash Hiran, was found dead in the same fire.

In its affidavit to the Gujarat High Court, the state government said the game zone did not fall within the definition of 'temporary structure,' and, therefore, required statutorily stipulated development permission from the city civic body.

"No such development permission was sought for in the case of TRP game zone," it said.

Necessary measures have been taken on an urgent basis to mitigate the circumstances arising out of the incident and strict action has ensued against the erring officers, the state government said.

At the same time, it is awaiting the final report of the SIT "to enable the state authorities to take further action as per its findings and recommendations," it said.

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Published 03 June 2024, 16:50 IST

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