After fire audit, Wakf shelves measures to ensure safety of shrines

Authorities at J&K Wakf Board have failed to implement the much-needed measures to ensure safety of shrines particularly against fire incidents.

In November 2018, after the spire of Khanqah-e-Moula destroyed in a fire incident here, the then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had called for a safety audit of all shrines across Kashmir.

The government had directed the Board, Fire and Emergency Services, Power Development Department (PDD), Public Health Engineering (PHE), Police, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and other related departments to jointly conduct the safety audit and suggest measures to protect the shrines.

In response, the PDD came out with a proposal for re-electrification of some shrines and asked the Wakf Board to release Rs 92 lakh, an official said. But, he said, the Board sat on the proposal citing “shortage of funds”.

Some of the proposed measures which were to be taken for protection and enhancement of the safety of shrines included installation of fire hydrants, smoke alarms and CCTVs at each shrines.

The official said so far “nothing satisfactory” has been done to enhance safety of these revered places.

The Board’s own proposal of installing anti-lightning equipment and CCTV cameras in shrines has not seen any progress.

Over the years Kashmir has witnessed several fire incidents in which shrine suffered major damage.

In 2012, the 245-year-old Dastageer Sahib shrine was gutted in a fire incident. The then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had also ordered a fire safety audit of all major shrines in the Kashmir.

A committee was constituted to inquire into Dastageer Sahib shrine fire episode as well. Apart from seeking a detailed probe by agencies concerned to find out the exact cause of fire, the committee had suggested a slew of measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future.

But none of these recommendations were implemented, said the official.

In November 2018, one of the holiest shrines of Kashmir, Khanqah-e-Moula, caught fire and much of its upper portion went up in the flames. A few months later, a fire broke out at Dastageer Sahab (RA) Masjid.

It is not just the fire incidents but lack of maintenance was another issues.

An old ceiling fan fell on a devotee at Asar-i-Sharief shrine at Kalashpora here. The Intizamia committee of the shrine complained that ceiling fans in the shrine had been installed 40 years ago and had turned rusty.

The Wakf authorities never repaired or replaced the fans, the committee said.

The installation of the CCTV cameras had been entrusted to the state Home department’s security wing.

As of now the Board has installed cameras only at a few shrines – Assari Sharief Hazratbal, Makhdoom Sahib, Peer Dastigeer Sahab, Khawja Naqashband Sahab, Syed Yaqoob Sahab, Sonwar; Syed Mantaqi Sahab, Awantipora; and Charari-e –Sharief. There are more than 93 shrines and Masjids that are under the control of the Board.

“The government and officials from Waqf Board make big statement about the safety of the shrine, but later forget their promises,” said a devotee at Hazratbal shrine here.

The Secretary Wakf Board, Showkat Beigh said fire extinguishers have been installed at most of the shrines. “Other measures are being implemented to enhance safety of the shrines,” he said.