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Pandal fire fee hiked

Fire brigade approval for puja pandals in the city and suburbs will cost more from this year.

According to the fire brigade officials, big puja organisers will be charged Rs 1,000 and the smaller ones will have to pay Rs 500. The earlier rate was a uniform Rs 50. The new rates come into effect this Durga puja and will apply to all pujas. Charges for posting fire tenders near the pandals have also been hiked from Rs 600 to Rs 5,000.

“The fire brigade has to fork out large sums to fight a blaze or keep a vigil on the pandals. Hundreds of firemen spend sleepless nights, ready to attend any fire alert,” pointed out fire services director Baren Sen. “Besides, we have to keep all equipment and vehicles on stand-by for the purpose. So, the puja organisers must contribute. Even after the hike, the fee is not that high and the puja organisers will be able to pay it,’’ Sen added.

The big puja organisers have a budget of up to Rs 30 lakh. “If an organisation can spend Rs 30 lakh for a function, it shouldn’t complain about paying Rs 1,000 for fire safety,’’ Sen observed.

By the rules, it is mandatory for puja pandals to obtain an approval from the fire brigade. Without it, neither the local administration nor police will issue permission to erect the pandal.

The fire services director said approvals will be issued from September 2 from three centres — the fire brigade headquarters and the Behala and CR Avenue branches. “We have decided to start early to avoid the last-minute scurry for approvals. The fee will have to be deposited at the time of submission of applications,’’ Sen said.

Puja organisers have not objected yet to the fee hike. “It is still a nominal charge,” said a fire official. “I see no reason for anyone to complain. Considering that on more than one occasion fires have razed puja pandals and the firemen have had to do all the running around, it is a small price to pay. They mobilise lakhs by way of subscriptions and donations, anyway.”

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