It has been five years to the day since the fire in Carlton Towers on Bengaluru's Old Airport Road claimed nine lives. Every year, the group 'Beyond Carlton', formed by survivors, and relatives of victims, marks the occasion with an event that honours firefighters, and aims to remind the general public of their role in fire safety.
Beyond Carlton has already made some difference to fire safety measures in Karnataka. They have helped in raising awareness about fire safety and even approached the courts to get fire safety rules changed. They believe that a lot more needs to be done.
Uday Vijayan, who lost his son Akhil in the fire, said, "When we went out with our PIL (Public Interest Litigation) and got the laws changed, that was the easy part. The tougher part is for it to be implemented. Some of my colleagues from the fire department are here and they know the challenges. We have empowered them a lot more. But we were shocked to find out that they couldn't, for example, go up and inspect a building. That shocked me in my first meeting with the fire department."
Appreciating the work done by the group, Om Prakash, DGP Karnataka for Fire Safety and Emergency Services told NDTV, "The department got empowered to re-inspect high-rise buildings once in two years. And ensure that the violations are rectified for the sake of fire safety. We have already inspected 1,600 buildings and written to BESCOM to disconnect powers of 42 unsafe buildings till they rectify things."
"Fire safety is everybody's initiative - not just the department, or those associated with Beyond Carlton. We certainly thank Beyond Carlton to give us this public platform where fire safety is taken care of. It (the incident) happened 5 years ago, and 9 precious lives were lost. 7 of them jumped from the 6th and 7th floor, and 2 inhaled the poisonous gases and expired on the way to the hospital. Such tragedy should not be repeated in Bangalore, and we all have to work together for that," he said.
The group wants people to understand that fire rules are for their own safety - and that a fire disaster can happen to anyone of us, at home, or at work.
Those who died in the Carlton Towers fire also thought they were working in a safe environment. Tragically they were not.