The Maharashtra government, while seeking the Supreme Court's nod earlier this month for a 'Make in India' programme, had said that the proposed function was 'India's pride'. However, on Sunday, the event touted as 'India's pride' ended up as an embarrassment after a major fire gutted the venue at the Girgaum Chowpatty.
The fact that the Bombay High Court had specifically denied permission for this event on 29 January, only makes matters worse. Not to be outdone, the Maharashtra government had appealed against the order in the Supreme Court. The apex court's order granting permission was an interim one, and it will be interesting to see what happens in the next hearing of the case.
The organiser of the event — Wizcraft International Entertainment Pvt Ltd — has said in a statement that prior to the event, all safety checks and audits were done.
"All fire and safety norms prescribed were followed. We are grateful for the help from the Maharashtra government, and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his team, who stayed at the venue right till the end to ensure the venue was evacuated and reviewed the site in detail post the fire was doused," it said.
The Congress, however, has slammed the BJP-led government in Maharashtra, saying that the incident was a result of the government's 'overzealousness,' as reported in The Hindu.
However, a Mumbai Mirror report quotes a fire department officer as saying that the department had asked the organisers to ensure that no firecrackers were burst near the stage. However, in the application before the High Court, the state government had specifically stated that the event would end with a fireworks display, as reported by PTI. While the cause of the fire has not yet been established, this raises questions over whether the state government ignored the advice of the fire department of its capital city.
As per a report in The Times of India, the guidelines which have been put in place stipulate that the beach should not be used for any public or political gatherings. The state government, in its arguments before the Supreme Court, had said that the beach had been earlier been used for a function to hold the celebrations for the Golden Jubilee celebrations for the state of Maharashtra.
However, after the permission was granted for the event, the committee appointed to look after the upkeep of the beach had objected to the way the area was used for the function. According to a report in The Times of India, the chairman of the committee Rafiq Dada had said that the function was to take place only in a limited area behind a statue of Lokmanya Tilak. However, the committee "had not permitted the enclosure of more than half the beach", Dada was reported to have said.
Given this history, it came as little surprise that the fire department's advice against the bursting of crackers at the venue on Sunday was disregarded. While the exact cause of the fire will only be known in the days to come, an accident of this nature at an event meant to promote Brand India is likely to send political temperatures soaring.
With inputs from PTI