10 years of Mantralaya fire: Rebuilding plans shot down, important depts still function from different buildings

It has been 10 years since an enormous fireplace broke out on the Mantralaya, on June 21, 2012, and gutted practically 4 flooring of the state secretariat. A number of essential departments broken by the fireplace — Public Well being, Medical Training, Rural Improvement and Water Provide — nonetheless function from different buildings. Plans to shift these departments again to Mantralaya appear to have been shelved in the meanwhile.

The hearth began in a small cabin on the fourth flooring and slowly engulfed the fifth, sixth and the illegally constructed seventh flooring of the constructing. It took practically three years to restore the harm brought on by the fireplace and renovate the affected elements.

Jayant Banthia, the then state chief secretary, stated, “When the fireplace broke out in Mantralaya, I used to be with our divisional commissioners. My workplace was on the fifth flooring and we smelt one thing burning. I despatched my colleague, Praveen Pardeshi, who informed me that there was an enormous fireplace and we must depart.’’

The hearth, which began on the fourth flooring, unfold quick as a result of many recordsdata and paperwork stored within the secretariat’s rooms, and shortly engulfed huge swathes of different flooring. It claimed 5 lives and left 16 severely injured. As many as 64,000 recordsdata had been broken within the blaze

Quickly after the incident, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had steered that the prevailing Mantralaya construction, constructed in 1955, have to be demolished and a brand new constructing have to be constructed. However in accordance with sources, the Congress, which was NCP’s coalition associate within the then state authorities, refused to pay attention.

“Following a test of structural stability, we discovered that the constructing was nonetheless standing sturdy, and determined to refurbish it. Mantralaya is the seat of the state authorities. We vacated some vital departments and shifted Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar to the primary flooring,’’ stated Banthia.

Permission was additionally sought from the Bombay Excessive Court docket to shift some departments to the GT Hospital advanced, and vital departments like Well being and Medical Training had been moved there. Two different essential departments, Dwelling and Income, had been briefly shifted to the World Commerce Centre.

To renovate the broken elements of Mantralaya, the Public Works Division (PWD) employed an architect referred to as Raja Aederi, stated Banthia.

“The highest bosses proposed a system adopted in western international locations, the place guests aren’t allowed in departments, however this was opposed by MLAs. Within the plan made by designers,  joint secretaries, deputy secretaries and below secretaries weren’t purported to have cabins. However they insisted on having cabins and Banthia confronted robust opposition. Lastly, the forms agreed to present cabins to all. Because of this, places of work of Public Well being, Medical Training and Water Provide remained within the GT Hospital advanced. The Rural Improvement division, which coordinates with all zilla parishads, operates from the Bandhkam Bhavan of Public Works Division,’’ stated a high PWD officer.

Banthia stated whereas there was additionally a plan to increase and redevelop the Mantralaya’s annexe wing, it was shelved later. He identified that places of work of the Election Fee, Lok Ayukta, Chief Info Commissioner and Proper to Info Chief Commissioner, which operate from the New Administrative constructing, could be shifted out and 4 state departments can take over their place. “However these places of work are managed by retired senior officers who refuse to go away the Mantralaya advanced. If the Maharashtra Electrical energy Regulatory Fee can operate from the World Commerce Centre, why can’t these departments transfer,” requested Banthia.

“As of now, there isn’t a plan to deliver the 4 departments to Mantralaya,’’ stated Extra Chief Decretary, PWD, Manoj Saunik.

However logistical points usually crop up as state division places of work are unfold throughout completely different buildings. “Our hardest moments had been throughout the first and second waves of Covid-19, when officers of each Well being and Medical Training departments, who had no workplace of their very own in Mantralaya, needed to camp there to attend conferences with the state chief secretary. The GT Hospital advanced is situated a km away from Mantralaya and every spherical journey takes 30 to 40 minutes,’’ stated a senior officer of the Well being Division.

Nevertheless, the refurbished Mantralaya has its personal benefits, stated Banthia. There’s a fireplace combating system in place and the cafeteria has modified. There are additionally fewer rodents.

Senior Congress chief Prithviraj Chavan, who was the chief minister in 2012, stated, “This incident was tragic and unlucky. It was one of many darkest occasions of my profession.’’

When requested about why a brand new constructing advanced was not constructed, as steered by Pawar, Chavan stated, “We thought it was impractical.’’

Former chief fireplace officer of Mumbai, Prabhat Rahangdale, was the divisional fireplace officer in 2012. “That day, I used to be in Excessive Court docket for a case and noticed smoke. We responded instantly. However our turn-table ladder had nice problem due to parked autos and another impediments. The passages had been additionally blocked.’’

Rahangdale, who retired as deputy commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Company in April this yr, stated haphazard planning inside Mantralaya was a problem even now.

The practically 64,000 recordsdata that had been destroyed within the fireplace included data of a number of officers and instances. Since then, the state authorities has began preserving scanned copies of all recordsdata.

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