One of the 500 kiosks at khadi fair that lacks fire safety measures in Ranchi on Tuesday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Once singed but not twice shy.
The 21-day Rashtriya Khadi and Saras Mahotsav, 2013, one of the capital’s biggest events that was inaugurated on Tuesday on Morabadi grounds by Union minister Jairam Ramesh and chief minister Hemant Soren, cocked a snook at fire safety despite a blaze in 2011 that had left seven persons injured.
The fair, organised by Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Union ministry of micro small and medium enterprises, and State Khadi and Village Industries Board, spread on 1.75 lakh sqft area, is one of the biggest annual crowd-pullers.
This year, the gala is hosting 500 stalls and two pavilions depicting Mahatma Gandhi’s love for khadi as a vehicle for self-reliance. Weavers and artisans from across the country have brought items as diverse as textiles, wall hangings and herbal beauty products.
But fire safety is an alien concept at the fair that sees footfall in thousands every day.
To begin with, the fair doesn’t have the mandatory clearance safety certificate, which organisers should have obtained from Audrey House fire station.
Very few people know that four stations in Ranchi — Dhurwa, Doranda, Piska and Audrey House — issue fire safety clearances for public events, depending on the area where it is held. The stations also deploy firemen and tenders depending on need.
On Day One, a couple of fire tenders were supposed to be deployed on the Morabadi fair grounds, but when The Telegraph paid a visit on Tuesday, before the VVIPs came, organisers looked blank.
Not a single fire extinguisher or sand bucket could be spotted at the stalls or food kiosks, let alone water tankers.
The use of synthetic tents was rampant, flouting Union home ministry directives on blaze-resistant temporary establishments.
But when asked, Rajeev Malhotra, a state khadi board official, said everything was “fine”. “All stalls will have fire extinguishers and tenders will be pressed into service 24/7,” Malhotra said, but couldn’t say when.
When contacted, Ram Bharat Ram, the current in-charge of the fire station, sounded confused.
“We will press a couple of tenders today, but no one has told us anything about tomorrow. We will do whatever the district administration tells us,” he said.