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Mantralaya fire: documents still being dried, preserved

Mumbai: Over 9,000 pages from 110 files belonging to the Revenue and Forest Department, which were burnt in the Mantralaya fire, are being dried out in the seminar hall of Worli Dairy since last week, according to a report in the Mumbai daily Mid-Day.

Now, this is being done by investigators to collect clues that will allow them to ascertain whether the files were charred during the fire or drenched during the rescue operations. The Director of the Department of Archives has been roped in to help with the entire process.

Hundreds of documents were damaged in the fire in the Maharashtra secretariat. PTI

Suprabha Agarwal, director, Department of Archives, told Mid-Day: "We are assisting the Revenue and Forest Department to retrieve and preserve whatever papers they could collect from the fire. The papers will be fumigated and accordingly a decision on whether they should be scanned, microfilmed or digitised will be duly taken. Although, we have a staff crunch, we will give priority to this work."

Thankfully, though, the files for the Adarsh scam were already with the CBI before the fire broke out. All the records were supposed to be digitised as part of a programme launched in 2010 but could not be because of "the slowness of the process."

Meanwhile, a report in the Hindustan Times says that the inquiry into the cause of the fire at Mantralaya on 21 June is still not over.

"We need a few more days to reach a conclusion and are waiting for the incident report of the fire department, which is expected soon," the official said.

Around 190 persons, who witnessed the fire, were questioned by the crime branch but there were a few contradictions in their accounts and that has meant that the crime branch will need to start over.

On the other hand, the Public Works Department have already submitted architect Raja Aederi's refurbishment plans for the secretariat building. Now, while that comes as no surprise, the big issue here is the price tag being quoted for redevelopment -- Rs 100 crores.

The problem for this being that the money for redevelopment cash will be taken from state exchequer i.e. the people.

The government is also planning to spend quite a large packet in renting office spaces for its temporary chambers. Not that they have an option. But at least for the moment, they haven't done a Mayawati. The former UP Chief Minister had spent 86 crores of public money on her bungalow and then later said it was not done for personal interest but in memory of BSP founder Kanshi Ram, since a major part of it is dedicated to his memory.