After Bhadohi tragedy, U.P. launches campaign to check pandals for fire safety measures

Day after a major fire breakout at a Durga Puja pandal in Bhadohi claimed five lives, the Uttar Pradesh fire department on Monday launched district-wise inspections of all pandals to ensure that the organisers are adhering to all fire safety measures.

“Officials from the fire office in each district conducted inspections in their respective jurisdictions,” said Dilip (who goes by his first name), a fireman with the fire department headquarters control room. The pandals are being inspected based on their size and location (distance from the main road). To ensure effective action, fire inspectors have been directed to submit a report on the inspected pandals to the department.

Speaking to HT following the fire safety inspection on Monday, Soumendranath Chatterjee, committee secretary of the Gomti Nagar Puja Committee which has set up the Neelkanth puja pandal in Lucknow, said, “We have been taking all precautionary measures following a fire mishap in 1992. Fortunately, no one was hurt in that incident but the tent was burned down. This year, our pandal is equipped with four fire extinguishers. We also have four water buckets and as many sand buckets for emergencies.”

In a similar vein, Tuhin Banerjee, senior member of the Trans Gomti Dussehra and Durga Puja Committee, assured that all fire safety protocols are being followed at the pandal in Lucknow’s Aliganj colony. Similarly, the Cantonment Durga Puja pandal was also found equipped with sand buckets and fire extinguishers during the inspection.

However, fire safety arrangements at a few pandals in Lucknow were found lagging. Madan Singh, fire officer at Gomti Nagar fire station, said, “In our knowledge, there are three Durga Puja pandals in Gomti Nagar — at Kanha Vihar, Rail Vihar, and Neelkanth. We inspected them all and instructed them on safety measures to be taken. Among the three, fire extinguishers were only found at the Neelkanth pandal. It isn’t certain how these pandals will make up for the lag in fire safety arrangements with the festival already in full swing.”

Meanwhile, in the western region, DCP West S Chanappa and ADCP West Chiranjeevnath Sinha took stock of arrangements at all pandals. Sinha inspected fire-fighting equipment, water drums, and sand sacks at pandals in the West Zone. Also, puja samitis were directed to not keep any inflammable material around the pandal.

It was also found that there was no cap on the number of visitors allowed to visit these Durga Puja pandals.

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