Wake up, Mr Bidari

It was a preventable fire that took nine lives and injured scores of others. On February 23rd, the Beyond Carlton trust, co-founded by a parent of one of nine who died in the Carlton Towers fire, conducted its memorial service at Manipal Hospital Auditorium.

Shankar Bidari should have attended this memorial service. Not just in honour of the people who lost their lives, but in honour of the high-minded notification he issued in March 2010, just a week after the tragedy.

Bidari in an exercise of police power unseen in Bangalore till then, had asked owners and leasers of all four-storeyed or taller buildings in the city to respond with their full status of compliance on fire safety and building plan rules. He even wrote in the notification that “disobeying these directions will be liable for prosecution and penalty”. He cited the Karnataka Police Act and the Indian Penal Code to prove that he had the power to enforce the law.

Several times during the month of April 2010, Citizen Matters contacted Bidari. We asked him how many people had filed their responses and whether the police now had a better idea of how many buildings were fire unsafe. Bidari did not respond.

Bidari’s forgotten deadlines
– Filing of compliance status – 15th April 2010
– Ensuring compliance with fire safety rules – 30th April 2010
– Ensuring compliance of bldgs to approved plan – 30th June 2010

In effect, after issuing a notice at a time the coals were hot, and getting a lot of press for it, Bidari killed and buried the notification too. Clearly he should not have issued an order he could not enforce, making a further mockery of affairs.

No one from the police department attended the memorial at Manipal Hospital on February 23rd. They should have. It would have reminded them of their own notification. Ignored, dead, toothless and gone.