The tragic incident of Majorkhul fire in the heart of the Imphal was something waiting to happen. It is one of the most congested area as it is a residential place with sprawling density of populace, and as well as a junction bustling with all kinds of commercial activities. Predictably enough, the Fire Service could not reach the spot in time. This is because of the narrow lanes, and above all the stumbling block of vehicles parked on the lanes occupying half of the available space. The fire reportedly was sparked off after an explosion of a domestic gas cylinder, followed by a chain of similar explosions in the congested neighbourhood. Such was the intensity of the fire that two heavy duty fire tender vehicles from Imphal failed to douse the inferno. It was eventually brought under control with the help of additional fire tenders from the neighbouring districts. There were complaints from the residents that the fire tenders were late to arrive. There must be plenty to complain about the deficiencies on the part of the fire service, but in this case there were other reasons which were not the department’s part. One of the biggest problems is the parked vehicles on the narrow lanes. It is worthwhile to recall a noble idea that the Imphal West traffic police had earlier experimented in this regard. A few months back, parking along the streets of Thangal and Paona Bazar was prohibited in order to facilitate a smooth flow of traffic. But the idea met an untimely dead, as we believe, there was disapproval from the people who have business establishments in the said areas. The indicative argument was that the then prohibition of vehicles along the two streets of Paona and Thangal Bazar purportedly affected sales margins. We would say there is no better time to learn lessons than from calamity such as the Majorkhul fire incident, to ponder over and to relook into those selfish arguments promoted by narrow vested interests. IFP had welcomed the idea of prohibiting vehicles along the two streets then. We stand by it still.
IFP carried an exclusive interview with the director (in-charge) of the state Fire Service department in April this year, in the backdrop of the Fire Service Week that was organised by the department. The department has been functioning without a full-fledged director for the last 10 years. Although equipped with modern fire-fighting implements, the state headquarter with its meager staff of 20 people is given the responsible to not only cover the twin districts of Imphal, but also to areas like Nambol, Sekmai and peripheries of the Imphal districts. The Fire Service Week was to give awareness to the people about fire safety. The director has been honest to admit the helplessness of the department while giving strictures of fire safety norms to the public, and more particularly to the business establishments. People do not simply follow safety norms unless and until they are force to do so. IFP in this column had recurrently warned of such calamities, like the recent one waiting to happen. It could have happened at other semi-commercial places, which also are residential areas like Nagamapal, Keishampat, Uripok and Wahengleikai; these areas are fast growing in terms of population density plagued with congested physical structures. If ever a major fire breaks out in these places with narrow lanes, the loss would be devastating. The state chief minister, his deputy and other VIPs have witnessed the unfortunate Majorkhul fire incident, and now should be aware of the lurking time bomb. It is expected that immediate action plan to prevent such incidents will be taken up without wasting any time. Revamp the Fire Service Department. Bring back the traffic prohibition in the two streets of Paona and Thangal Bazar. For a long term planning, we suggest minimising the commercial activities in these areas. Relocate the commercial activities to some other places. On the whole, follow wise urban planning.
Leader Writer: Senate Kh