What happened to safety audit for Kashmir shrines?

What happened to safety audit for Kashmir shrines?

The board recently wrote to its chairman Khurshid Ganai that the re-electrification “is of urgent nature since most of the shrines are wooden structures and vulnerable to fire”.

In November last year, after the spire of Khanqah-e-Moula was destroyed in a fire, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti called for a safety audit of all shrines in Kashmir. A year later, nothing has been done to enhance safety of these revered places.

The former chief minister, who was also the chairperson of the Wakaf Board, 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 precautionary measures to protect the shrines.

She had also directed installation of fire hydrants, smoke alarms and CCTVs at shrines. In response, PDD came out with a proposal for re-electrification of a few important shrines and asked the Wakaf Board to release Rs 92 lakh, but the board sat on the proposal because of "shortage of funds".

The board recently wrote to its chairman Khurshid Ganai that the re-electrification “is of urgent nature since most of the shrines are wooden structures and vulnerable to fire”.

“It is requested that the issue may be placed before the chairman for providing necessary funding so that these urgent works are taken up by the PDD at the earliest.”

Also, Wakaf Board’s own proposal for installing anti-lightning equipment and CCTV cameras in shrines has not been implemented.

Government’s record of shrine safety is not very heartening. In 2012, a fire gutted the 245-year-old Dastageer Sahib Shrine. Omar Abdullah, who was the chief minister at that time, ordered a fire safety audit of all major shrines in the valley. The government had also asked for an action plan for the protection and preservation of the shrines.

A committee was constituted to inquire into Dastageer Sahib shrine fire. 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 put into practice.

Last November, one of the holiest shrines of Kashmir, Khanqah-e-Moula, caught fire and much of its upper portion went up in the flames. Courtesy prompt intervention by the fire brigade officials and the local people, the fire was doused before it could spread. A few months later, a fire broke out at Dastageer Sahab (RA) mosque, but again due to the alertness of devotees it was extinguished quickly. It is not just the shrines that are vulnerable to fire and other dangers, even the devotees aren’t safe once inside the holy places.

An old ceiling fan fell on a devotee at the Asar-i-Sharief Shehri shrine at Kalashpora, Srinagar. The Intizamia Committee of the shrine had complained that ceiling fans in the shrine had been installed 40 years back, were rusty and no longer dependable. A devotee, the committee said, nearly lost his life in the accident. The Wakaf authorities, despite repeated messages, didn’t repair or replace the fans, the committee said.