Two fires within a span of 18 days have brought out a sharp contrast — arrest warrants have been issued against the owners and the chief executive of one building while no matching action has been initiated against those in charge of the other structure.
The buildings in question: Bagree Market and Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. One is owned by Bagree Estate Pvt Ltd and the other by the Bengal government.
In the case of Bagree, the levers of law-enforcement moved with remarkable alacrity. The fire services directorate lodged a police complaint against the directors of Bagree under sections that entail imprisonment of up to five years and police moved court and obtained warrants. None has been traced yet, though.
No deaths directly linked to either fire have been established conclusively yet. But both the facilities have been accused of neglecting fire safety measures. Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi on Thursday referred to the “unspeakable misery” of the patients and “the huge loss of valuable medicines”.
Yet, the fire services establishment has not filed any complaint against the hospital till now.
“As a responsible government officer, how can I lodge a complaint against a government institution?” a senior official of the fire brigade asked on Thursday evening.
But a retired divisional fire officer said: “There can’t be two sets of rules for private and government buildings.”
The serving official indicated how hard a brother wing was trying to find redeeming features in the other. Although the hospital did not install smoke detectors and sprinklers as recommended, the fire brigade is “happy with the adequate water supply we received”.
“They had a large reservoir. The firefighters used water from the reservoir. We cannot say that there was no firefighting arrangement, which is why we didn’t lodge any complaint,” said the official.