Mumbai: Since December 29 last year, when two eateries in Kamala Mills caught fire, Mumbai has witnessed a string of fire incidents, the Sanjay Gandhi National park episode being the latest. An inquiry was promptly instituted into most fire incidents — Kamala Mills, Beau Monde and Crystal Tower — but this time around, both the government and the police do not find anything fishy in the national park fire. Even though, activists suspect that the fire in the national park was a deliberate act.
Monday’s incident has exposed the vulnerability of the city to man-made hazards and the police only have a ‘diary entry’ to show for what transpired on the fateful evening. Dindoshi police have not yet registered a case against anyone in the Goregaon fire and are awaiting the incident report to initiate action.
Only if something suspicious is detected, a case will be registered, pointed out Rajaram Vhanmane, senior police inspector of Dindoshi police station, The fire broke out at 6.30 pm on the premises of the Infinity IT park of K Raheja Constructions and since it is a forest area, it was extremely difficult for fire tenders to access the spot. The fire was soon fanning out towards the New MHADA colony due to uphill wind conditions.
Fire officials said an investigation is underway and it will take three more days for them to come to any conclusion. More so, since the fire had spread in a radius of around 4-5 kilometres. A fire official said, “The fire was on a hill spread across a vast territory, and many small trees have got burnt. It will take some time to assess the damage.”
Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and Congress politicians have alleged a cover-up, as it involves a prominent developer. Sunil Prabhu, Sena, Legislator of Dindoshi said, “We have demanded a thorough inquiry by the Fire Department, the Police and the BMC. The reason behind the fire has to be ascertained. The fire occurred on a non-development tract belonging to the Rahejas.”
Sachin Ahir, the Mumbai president of NCP, said, “In the name of development, a fire was lit in the forest, which was suspicious and, for which, in my personal opinion, the state government is responsible. The government had brought the Metro III car shed also to favour builders. There are reports that the government has given concessions to builders in the national park as well; if true, then it definitely seems suspicious, as there is a link between development projects and this fire.”
The National Park officials slammed reports that the fire was in their jurisdiction. The chief conservator said that this area falls away from the forest and yet they extended help since the lives of Tribals were threatened. Tree activists, in turn, accused the developer of usurping the land and said that there have been incidents of fire prior to this.
An activist, Stalin D, Vanashakti, said, “There were no trees on this plot, as they have already been chopped. Fires are not new here, except this time it spiralled out of control and caught the attention of the authorities. Prior to this incident, I have written several letters to government officials regarding chopping of trees and fires, but I am yet to receive any reply.”