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BBMP fire breakout: Civic body not cooperating with investigation, say police

Police officers investigating the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) fire breakout incident of August 11 are yet to make a breakthrough as the civic body is not cooperating with the investigation, said sources in the police.

According to a police officer involved in the investigation, BBMP engineer-in-chief B H Prahalad has not appeared for questioning despite being served four notices since the time of the accident. The police are yet to ascertain some lapses on the part of the civic agency, including the fire and safety compliance of the Quality Assurance Laboratory where the fire accident took place.

“We have served three notices so far to B H Prahalad, including a fourth one on Tuesday. But he did not turn up for questioning. We need to ascertain whether the lapses are on the part of the civic agency, including that of the fire and safety compliance of the building where the incident took place,” said a police officer on condition of anonymity.

While the BBMP officials have been reluctant to cooperate with the investigation, it has been discovered that a group D employee who was present at the time of the incident is being blamed within the BBMP.

The said employee was named in the FIR and was also arrested by the police but was released on station bail. A police officer said that the employee, who did not have the authority to enter the laboratory, did it on the oral instructions from his higher ups.

According to the police, the employee also admitted to his negligence during questioning. “Although orally he has admitted to the crime, we need substantive proof to validate that. Which is why we want the engineer-in-chief to appear for questioning,” said the police officer.

The Bengaluru police have booked two engineers, Ananda and Swamy, and Suresh Kumar, a group D employee, for negligence in connection with the fire accident. The trio has been booked under IPC Sections 337 (causing hurt by negligence) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others).

In an internal inquiry report, the BBMP has stated that the accident took place due to negligence and failure to follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) but they are yet to receive a report from chemical expert Anjanappa of R V college of Engineering which will detail the chemical components found at the laboratory on the day of incident. “He is likely to submit the report by September 15,” said a BBMP officer.

Job for wife and financial backing for children’s education

Meanwhile, the civic agency has submitted a three-point request to BBMP administrator Rakesh Singh for compensation to the family of C M Shivakumar (45), who succumbed to injuries on August 30 due to the accident.

According to deputy commissioner (admin) Manjunatha Swamy, the civic agency has proposed a job in Group A or Group B for the deceased’s wife Uma Maheshwari, depending on her qualification.

In addition, they have also proposed Rs 50 lakh each for the education of Shivakumar’s daughters Vibha Nidhi (12) and Nirvi Neha (10), and finally, monthly payment to Maheshwari, till the retirement age of Shivakumar.

“We are ideally working on giving a job for his wife under Group A or Group B, but it has to be approved by the state government. Currently, the request is with the administrator and the final approval has to be obtained from the government. Meanwhile, the other eight employees, out of which two have been discharged from the hospital, were sanctioned special medical leave where full payment will be processed during the period of treatment. In addition, the hospital expenses are also borne by the BBMP,” said Swamy.

In a letter dated September 4 to the deputy commissioner (admin), BBMP Officers and Employees Welfare Association requested a pay cut for the next month from the monthly salaries of all the BBMP officials in order to compensate for the maintenance of the deceased’s family and the children’s education.

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The letter mentions that Rs 3,000 from Group A, Rs 2,000 from group B, Rs 1,500 from Group C and Rs 1,000 from Group D employees be deducted and the total amount be handed over to Shivakumar’s wife. “We have received the request from the employees union and the BBMP’s finance department has already approved it,” said Swamy.

As many as nine BBMP officials, including engineers, were injured after a fire broke out at the BBMP quality control laboratory in the civic body’s headquarters.

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Prahalad, who is appointed by the BBMP to conduct Internal Technical Enquiry for the cause of the fire accident, stated that the use of fire while dealing with a flammable substance like benzene might have gone wrong, leading to the unfortunate event.

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