In India, the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act(CAA) came into effect in June 1993. This was an important step towards decentralization of democracy. Through this Act, Urban Local Bodies(ULBs) like the Municipal Corporations of various cities, were empowered to perform 18 functions. These functions include Roads, Parks, Water Supply, Public Health, Waste Management & Crematoriums. One of the 18 functions listed is Fire Services.
Each State was expected to enact legislation to implement the 74th CAA. However, the State Governments got flexibility in terms of the functions that had to be devolved, the nature of devolution & the timing. Even after 27 years of the passing of the 74th CAA, the implementation in the States has been patchy.
On Fire Services, in most of the States, the function is still centralized and not devolved to the ULBs. The current status is that Fire services in 7 states namely, Maharashtra, Haryana, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab & Rajasthan are under the respective Municipal Corporations. In the remaining States & UTs, it is under the Home Department.
What this means is that some of the top cities in India like Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad & Kolkata do not have control of their Fire Services directly. The ULB of these cities cannot be held accountable for Fire Safety. This is unlike how Fire Services is handled in other major cities of the world like New York City or London.
There are several advantages of a City having direct control of Fire Services:
- Cities are at significantly higher risk of Fire Accidents – population increases, old building with outdated fire safety norms & larger number of public spaces. They need a disproportionate focus of Fire Services, which is possible if they control that function directly
- Agility in increasing the fire safety capacity – fire stations & fire personnel based on the growth of the city
- Ability to take quick action against violators of fire safety norms
- Create & implement a long term plan specific to the city – the example of the 5-year Bengaluru Fire Safety Blueprint prepared by Beyond Carlton with Karnataka Fire Services is a good example of that.
- Work on PPP models with leading Corporates in the City – as creating a Fire Safe City is important for the Corporates.
It is important, that we as citizens, demand the devolution of the Fire Services function to the ULBs, in more States of India, to comply with the 74th CAA. This will help improve the overall Fire Safety record of the Cities and thereby continue to be a magnet for investment & talent.
Image source: Google Images – ESIC Fire Accident
About The Author
Gopal Devanahalli is a member of the Beyond Carlton Executive Council. He currently works with the Manipal Group and has over 28 years of professional services experience, including 15+ years at Infosys. Gopal has an Engineering Degree in Computer Science, from BITS, Pilani, and a PGDM from IIM, Calcutta. In addition, he has done a Public Policy Course at The Takshashila Institution.