SRINAGAR: Traders in the congested Maharaj Gunj area have been fighting tirelessly to get a fire station set up there, ever since the previous one was closed seven years ago. Officials are now citing a funds crunch, even after a vacant piece of land was earmarked for this purpose a few years back.
President, Beopar Mandal Maharaj Gunj, Khurshid Ahmad Dalal told Kashmir Reader, “We are visiting Fire and Emergency Services (F&ES) Department continuously, but they always say it’s up to higher authorities and tell us to visit the department again another time. A few weeks before, we again met with the F&ES Deputy Director to know about the status, and he told us in a very clear-cut way that the authorities were not releasing the funds for its construction.”
“If they don’t have funds, then why they sanction the new Fire and Emergency station, which was going to be constructed in Sakal Pura, near Ali Kadal area of Downtown,” he further said
The Maharaj Gunj fire station collapsed in 2012, after which the services have been provided out of a rented building. After the collapse, the authorities decided to give permanent land for the station in Sakal Pura near Ali Masjid. Without a building of its own, the station has been merged on a temporary basis with the one at Syed Hamid Pora.
Vice-President, Beopar Mandal Maharaj Gunj, Mohammad Yaseen Wani told Kashmir Reader, “A few years ago, the authorities allotted the land for construction of a fire station, but till this date, nothing has happened.”
Meanwhile, the area’s shopkeepers and residents have been facing a tough time. “Maharaj Gunj market is one of the oldest and most famous markets in Downtown, being nearly 120 years old. Last winter, many fire incidents happened in and around the area, causing losses worth crores of rupees. In every incident, fire tenders reached the spot at least an hour after the incident happened,” said shopkeeper Muzafar Ahmad Bhat.
“From Hamid Pora station to Maharaj Gunj, it is very difficult for the fire engines as roads in the area are very narrow. We saw last year how the roads are hampering the movement of vehicles. It takes them at least an hour to settle all their equipment. By that time, everything is turned to ash,” Bhat further said .
Officials within the department told Kashmir Reader that the government had already sanctioned land for construction of the fire and emergency station in Sakal Pura. “For that, we need Rs 2.38 crore, but they are not releasing the funds. Without money, what can we do? We are also bound.”
As per the official figures from January to September 2018, 59 shops and nine complexes in Srinagar have been destroyed in fire, and in 2017, 99 shops and 18 complexes have met the same end.