Deepak Project fire – another Shimla heritage building lost – accident or conspiracy?
SHIMLA-On Saturday night, another heritage building, Minto Court near Indian Institute of Advance Studies, was lost in a fire break out. The building presently houses the office of Project Deepak of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), an inter-services organization under the defence ministry.
The estimate of the damage is suspected to have included many important documents. There was no report of any causalities or injuries to those present inside the building.
Fire broke out at about 9 PM on the top floor of this three-storeyed building and then spread down to the second floor. The fire broke out was devastating and engulfed almost entire building. The reason for the fire break out isn’t clear yet. But most likely, a short-circuit would be blamed, as usual.
Interestingly, the office was going through CBI enquiry and many are relating this incident to be a conspiracy to destroy related evidences. The people present on the scene insisted that it wasn’t an accident.
As a matter of fact, a couple of years ago, two High rank officials, Brig JK Narang and Lt Col Chancal Jhamb, were booked for allegedly giving undue favor to Siemens Enterprises Communication Private Limited in return to the bribe they had accepted. CBI had filed a charge-sheet against the duo in October last year.
Also, one more noticeable aspect of these incidents is that most of these building were heritage property and housed Govt. office.
The building was built during British rule in 1904, named after Lord Minto. It was built by the British, Raaja Bhasin, co-convener of the Himachal Pradesh chapter of Intach (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage). It was built in half-timbered Tudor style including all frames made of wood. Bhasin expressed his grief over such a loss, saying:
“It’s one of the British-era’s iconic survival structures in Shimla. I am really saddened with the damage”
Chief Fire Brigade Officer Bhupal Singh confirmed that they received the information regarding the fire at 9:30 PM, thereafter, the fire tenders the Shimla Mall Road, Chota Shimla, and Boileauganj were deployed to control the fire. It’s surprising that no one noticed the fire for half-an-hour. It would have taken just five minutes for Boileauganj fire brigade to reach the spot.
The fire brigade struggled to extinguish the fire for over four hours, but didn’t seem to be able to save the building. Lack of proper training and preparation reflected in the operation of the teams.
A lot of water was wasted as the trucks overflowed; the teams were observed to lack co-ordination, and some of the equipment weren’t functioning properly.
This is the second major fire in Shimla since last year when heritage Gorton Castle, a marvelous work of Neo-Gothic architecture, burnt to ashes. Before that many other heritage building have fallen victim to the same fate due to lack of maintenance and carelessness on the part of Govt. and related offices these building housed.
Everytime, any of these buildings are lost, the HP Govt. claim to conduct fare inquiry to find out the reason, and to take more precautions to avoid such devastating mishaps. However, those statements never had any purpose other than publication in newspapers. A lot of money is spent on the name of procuring safety measures and maintenances, but still Shimla is losing these heritage buildings one by one.