Fire and Emergency services in J&K: Dearth of men, abundance of machinery

Fire and Emergency services in J&K:  Dearth of men, abundance of machinery

SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir Fire and Emergency Services (JKFES) is witnessing acute shortfall in the human resource even as the priority with the department is to pile up machinery by expending huge financial resources.
The department is facing shortage of thousands of men including officials, fire-fighters and drivers. Worse, a large number of employees is reaching the age of superannuation every month, adding to the dearth of manpower in the services.
Informed sources said that JKFES has 2300 staffers at present, 1282 less than the sanctioned strength of 3582 staffers. The staff crunch compels the JKFES to manage only 87 fire stations and posts instead of the existing 156 stations and posts. The leftover 69 posts and stations are managed by internal adjustment of the staff.
“We have such an acute shortfall that two fire tenders at different locations in an area are managed by single driver,” said one of the staffers though our officials are piling up our machinery with no addition in human resource.
Ideally a fire station should have two drivers, 2 to 4 havaldars and 12 sepoys to manage a station but on the ground employees said that this staff is not visible at any of the stations. On the driver count alone, the most vital human resource in the emergency services, the department is facing 29 percent shortage.
The focus on purchase of machinery according to staffers is only because of ‘commissions received from the supplier companies on such purchases’.
The staffers buttress their claim with examples. They said that recently the department has asked a Mumbai based company to supply about 700 fire hoses costing over Rs 63 lakh. “There was no need to purchase this equipment at high rates,” an employee of the department said.
“What is the fun of piling up additional 21 kilometers of these pipes, if we do not have men to manage it,” he questioned. “The stockpile of hoses and other equipment only drains resources. This unfruitful expenditure will ruin the department and the ability of the human resource to deliver in emergencies,” he said.
Director General of Fire and Emergency Services Er RS Sodhi, however, sought to downplay the situation. He said the department is doing purchases as per the department needs and set guidelines.
“We cannot even purchase a needle without completing government formalities and such allegations are leveled by people who are not well-wishers of the department,” he said
Sodhi acknowledged the fact that the department was running under dearth of staff but maintained that the insufficient staff does not hamper the functioning of the services.
“We are carrying out the emergency services aptly and that is visible by our work on ground.  Dearth of staff will be looked into by the government at appropriate time, he said adding that the earlier selection process to infuse more men into the services was canceled by the government.