The Gujarat government has issued notifications that will bring all the eight municipal corporations in the state under the purview of The Gujarat Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2013, which carry punitive provisions for violation of fire safety rules.
According to the notification issued by the urban development and urban housing department on Saturday, eight “fire regions” with their headquarters in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Gandhinagar and Junagadh will be newly constituted under The Gujarat Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2013. These new eight fire regions will be limited to the municipal corporation areas in these cities.
“Under the Act there is a provision that we can make new fire regions. So right now, corporations were not covered in the existing fire regions. This notification designates every corporation as a region and the chief fire officer of that corporation is now the Regional Fire Officer for that area. To put it simply, the Fire Safety Act 2013 which was not applicable so far to corporations, will now be applicable to them,” a senior official from the department said.
There are already five fire regions under the same Act which covers the entire state. However, this Act did not include the municipal corporation regions. “These regions were municipalities in Gandhidham, Gandhinagar, Rajkot, Vadodara and Ahmedabad,” the officer added. Each of these five regions control multiple districts. The move from the state government comes after the Gujarat High Court in August 2020 asked the state government to explain as to why the eight municipal corporations in Gujarat have been excluded from the purview of the 2013 Act.
In another notification issued on the same day (Oct 3), the government stated that the fire services in the newly created eight zones will continue to be administered by the corporations. “The government of Gujarat hereby declares that the fire brigade, by whatever name is called, of all municipalities and municipal corporations shall not form part of the state fire service,” it stated.
Sources in the fire brigade department in Gujarat have criticised the move to alienate municipalities and municipal corporations from the state fire services. “This further complicates the issue. If municipal corporations and municipalities are kept out of the state fire services, then from where will the manpower for the fire brigade come for the rural areas. Even in municipalities there are no technically qualified personnel. They are usually dependent on the nearby municipal corporations for assistance. For effective results, the government should have moved the fire services from the corporations and merged it with state fire services. They should have formed a separate Gujarat fire services wing,” a senior fire brigade official said.