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Birthday bash turned disastrous

Friday, January 05, 2018

A birthday bash at a pub in a central Mumbai building ended in a tragedy with the death of 14 people, including 11 women, in a blaze that broke out shortly after midnight. Most of the victims died of suffocation. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) disaster management control room reveals that the injured had been taken to KEM Hospital at Parel. 'Bombay beautiful' was a better, safer, better place than 'Amchi Mumbai', the pot-marked, fiery city, ridiculed now by its own inhabitants. 'The penalty that people pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by men worse than themselves' must have been said keeping Mumbai in view, the jinxed city. Amazing, the leaders always have excuses and languages to articulate. Grin and bear it folks is my advice to its citizens. It is sad that implementation of safety measures is reactive and not done on proactive basis. Bringing sense of security from the grass root level of educational system is the only solution.
— C.K. Subramaniam, Sanpada

It is indeed horrendous that so many youngsters lost their lives. The accident underscores the deteriorating infrastructure in Mumbai. Some decades ago, the mills in Central Mumbai were closed due to overcrowding in the locality. These plots should have been converted into public parks and gardens to decongest the area. Instead, these premium plots of land have been sold and converted into shopping malls, restaurants and offices. So the very purpose of shutting the mills, to ease the congestion in the centre of Mumbai was lost.

Today, the Lower Parel area, in which the Kamala Mills Compound is based, has become an urban jungle, with residential building, offices, restaurants and premium shops, all leaning over each other due to the density of the locality. The expansion in business and residential facilities has not been supported by any improvement in infrastructure. The roads are narrow with just one operating lane, because the first lane is invariably occupied by taxis and hawkers. It is impossible for an ambulance or a fire engine to get through the road in an emergency. The footpaths have just disappeared due to the need to widen the road for the busy traffic and hawkers selling tea and fast food on the roads. High tension electricity wires and cables hang loose on many of the poles and footpaths are littered with stones and bricks, the leftovers of repairs some years ago and have just been left there.

The Lower Parel locality is serviced by two railways stations, i.e. Lower Parel and Currey Road, both of which are almost dilapidated and unable to handle the heavy traffic post the mushrooming of offices and restaurants in the area. The Currey Road bridge which connects Parel East to Lower Parel is over a 100 years old, and has not been widened since it was built in 1915. On weekdays, it can take 45 minutes to cross it, instead of the usual two-three minutes on a holiday. Unless the government can improve the roads, bridge infrastructure, electricity safety, transport networks, it is best not to build more offices or restaurants in the mill areas. We are risking human lives with unplanned expansion, as the fire accident has shown, costing 14 lives.
— Rajendra Aneja, Mumbai

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