Out of 611 sanctioned posts, 433 posts are vacant
Nagpur: With the summer season at the doorstep of Second Capital City of Nagpur and fire tragedies a regular feature, the Fire and Emergency Services Department of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) is finding it helpless to deal with the situation. The Fire Brigade is facing severe staff crunch owing to the large number of vacancies that increased over the years owing to recruitment freeze.
The NMC’s Fire Brigade not only tackles fire incidents and other emergencies in Nagpur City only, it has to rush outside city limits also to deal with big fires. So within the limited staff the force is being stretched beyond its limits and urgent steps are needed to address the situation, feel the experts.
As of today, the Fire and Emergency Services Department of NMC has nine stations for which 611 posts are sanctioned. However, only 178 posts are filled while 433 posts are vacant and this is giving sleepless nights to the force. With the onset of summer, there is increasing worry in the force on how to cope with the situation. During the season, the scorch is quite severe and the city has a history of raging fire incidents and with depleted and overworked staff, the challenges are always going to be big for the force.
For one reason or another, the civic body continued to defer decisions about recruitment of firefighters, in the Fire Brigade during the last few years. It shows apathy on the part of rulers and administrators as well towards the important department which has to be always on its toes to deal with emergency situations. The administrators who come for a fixed period of tenure had other priorities in mind and vacancies in the fire brigade were regarded as non emergent ones. Another reason for no recruitment was the logjam created due to controversy over desired quantification. This deprived many of the deserving candidates with backing qualification a chance to serve in the civic body’s fire brigade that further inflated the vacancies in the fire brigade.
Due to manpower shortage, the existing force is now so over-loaded that one fireman is carrying out work of three to four personnel. Apart from tackling fires, the Fire Brigade also has to tackle many other emergencies arising from time to time round the year. However, the staff crunch is taking a heavy toll of the manpower. Since NMC’s fire fighting force is the biggest in the region, it is routinely directed to rush outside the city limits to control fires in the industrial belt. Even NMRDA, whose area is expanding quite rapidly does not have its own fire fighting force and here too, NMC’s force has to step in quite regularly.
The increasing physical work has also brought in mental stress as leaves are curtailed and hence force is increasingly demanding some break and bringing in additional manpower. The situation has come to such a pass now that at many places the fire brigade is taking help of Aiwajdars, the non-technical person who does not even know ABC of fire fighting, during emergencies. A trained firefighting and disaster response team is always necessary as one may never know. Sources said that given the poor finances of the civic body, the Fire Brigade might have to adjust with current stressful conditions for time to come.
Some experts have put forward a suggestion that just like the police force, the State Government should take over fire brigades under its wing and form a pan-State level agency. The advantage would be that civic bodies that have to defer decision on acquisition of latest machinery or deferring recruitment owing to tight finances, the State taking over salary components, the force would always be ready for action and most importantly fighting fit.