The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fire-flout FIR slap on 10 organisers

Ahead, a strict rein on the use of combustible materials in puja pandals, flouting rules on the roadspace that must be kept open around them and not adhering to the use of electricity wires inside and outside temporary structures.

And, stricter still will be the rule against lighting fires inside pandals, except for yajnas.

Ten community puja organisers have already been pulled up this year by the state fire services department for not following one or more of these norms.

Fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee said on Monday that the government had filed first information reports (FIRs) against 10 pandals. The list includes Telengabagan and Karbagan in Ultadanga, Sandhani Club of Beleghata, Balak Sangha of Deodar Street, Bandhab Sammelani of Maharaja Tagore Road, Parijat Club of New Ballygunge, Jadavpur’s Sahidnagar Sarbojanin Durgotsav, Juba Sangha of Tollygunge, and Pallimangal Samity, at Kidderpore. An FIR has also been lodged against a Beniapukur club for flouting norms in holding a fair adjacent to the pandal.

“This should be warning enough for the puja organisers and prevent them from flouting rules again,” the minister said.

Last year, too, there had been errant organisers who had to be pulled up. “However, since the matter is associated with a festival, the administration lays more stress on issuing warnings to the organisers and ensuring that thousands of others do not dare flout rules.” Turning a deaf ear to the warnings will draw severe action, the minister warned — including fines and even arrest, he added.

“If a fire had broken out in any of these pandals during the four-day festival, the organisers would have been arrested immediately,” the minister added.

With an increasing number of pandals coming up in the city and its suburbs, the government is now saddled with the problem of keeping tabs on all of them.

The fire department does earn revenue from issuing them licences, the minister admitted. “This year, we have earned Rs 48 lakh as revenue from fire service charges,” Chatterjee added.

“The total number of pandals in greater Calcutta last year was 2,730. The figure this year was 2,919,” the minister declared.

However, the government’s stepped-up vigilance is evident from the fact that there was not a single major blaze reported in the city this year, Chatterjee insisted.

“There have been stray fires this year, where a structure adjacent to a pandal caught fire and a coffee machine exploded, injuring three persons. But these incidents are minor compared with the fires till a few years ago,” Chatterjee added. He was all praise for the role played by his force for a blaze-free Puja.

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