Amid increase in fire incidents in the State, Jammu and Kashmir government has failed to enact its own Fire Safety Act – the law that gives power to Fire and Emergency Services Department to enforce fire safety guidelines in public and private establishments.
Official sources say that the absence of fire safety law has made its watchdog department a toothless tiger whose occasional roar is at best a whimper.
“In absence of the Act, the J&K Fire and Emergency Services department- supposed to be the enforcement body- acts as a toothless tiger when it comes to enforcing the fire safety guidelines for hotels, cinema halls, shopping complexes, multi-storey commercial establishments, etc.”. Officials said that the absence of the Act makes it hard for the department to enforce their writ during construction of commercial as well as residential structures to maintain fire gaps and adopt other procedures in vogue across the country.
A senior Fire and Emergency Services department official informed that draft Act has been enacted long back but the government has not approved it. “Unfortunately the Act has not been approved making the Fire Service department a mute spectator whose jobs has been left to only douse flames in case of eventualities,” he said, adding that violations of Fire Gap norms and other safety measure are going on everywhere be it in hospitals or government buildings, but without this Act the department cannot take any action.
As per officials, barring a few, the Government and private hospitals in the state lack fire fighting system thus endangering the lives of thousands of people. “Functioning without critical safety including lack of functional fire-fighting system, the threat of tragedy is looming large over the government as well as private hospitals in Jammu and Kashmir,” they said adding that in these hospitals, deficiencies in compartmentalization to prevent spread of smoke and fire from one section to another, lack of smoke management system and unreliable fire management systems have been noticed. DG Fire and Emergency Services Department, R K Hak, said that the department has forwarded the draft Fire Safety Act to government. “Draft Act has been forwarded, but I cannot speak about its current status.” The callousness of the government could be gauged by the fact that J&K has witnessed 15 percent increase in fire incidents last year. Jammu and Kashmir witnessed unprecedented 781 forest fire incidents in 2016 as the Forest department failed to spend 90 per cent of funds earmarked for forest fire management putting a question mark over the functioning of the department.