‘One driver manning two fire tenders at different locations’
Srinagar: The J&K Fire and Emergency Services (JKFES) is facing acute staff crunch even as the department seems to be spnding more on piling up new machinery. Sources in the department said JKFES currently has 2300 staffers, 1282 less than the sanctioned strength of 3582 staff. A large numbers of employees have retired in recent years, and many are about to retire, they said. 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. “Our officials are piling up on machinery with no addition in human resource.” Ideally a fire station should have two drivers, two to four havaldars and 12 sepoys to manage a station but on the ground when any fire incidents happen there are “6 members who handle the situation in which three firemen, one driver, one sub-officer and one leading fireman are present,” said Ghulam Nabi a sub officer in the department. On the driver count alone, the most vital human resource in the emergency services, the department is facing 35 percent shortage. “About 35 percent of shortages in fire and emergency department, but they don’t recruit due to some issues. Earlier the department had published various posts but in 2014 the list of candidates for the post who qualified the test was canceled due to some issue the list . Now it’s upon government when they are going to recruit,” Nabi said. Nabi added the department faced dearth of young employees required for physically demanding work. “The employees are getting old. They can’t climb or jump etc. They must give instructions to the junior employees as they are experienced.” he said. As per the official data 531 fire incidents happens in Srinagar district, 228 in Budgam, 350 in Anantnag in 2017. In the same year, 429 fire incidents were reported in Kupwara, 257 in Pulwama, 91 in Shopian, 154 in Ganderbal, 430 in Baramulla, 159 in Kulgam, and 224 in Bandipora. Director General F&ES R S Sodhi, acknowledged the dearth of staff, but declined that the department was making unnecessary purchases. “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,” Sodhi said. Sodhi added that the staff crunch 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.