Admitting that there were lessons to be learnt from the devastating fire at Mantralaya that claimed five lives, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Monday announced that a fire audit would be conducted in all the government buildings.
He also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 25 lakh each for the kin of the five victims, including one staffer of the chief minister's office.
Four days after the fire, Chavan on Monday resumed work from the first floor of the building chairing a cabinet meeting.
Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Chavan said the cause of the fire and how it was controlled was discussed. A panel of fire experts would be set up to assist the crime branch in the probe on how the fire started and how it was controlled.
He asserted that the probe would be conducted by government agencies only. "I am in talks with the Centre on taking help of experts from the National Fire College and National Disaster management authority," he added.
"We need to take steps that this will never happen again and hence it was decided to have a fire audit of all government buildings," he added.
"The cabinet began an exercise of taking stock of the extent of the damages, approving alternative arrangements for functioning of the departments, which had been gutted in the fire. We also want to assuage the fear among people that their personal work as well as development works would be hampered after the incident," Chavan said.
He said there was no data-server in Mantralaya and the work of re-constructing files had started on a war-footing through the Data Journey Management System to ascertain the number of files damaged and those that can be retrieved.
"There are lessons to be learnt from this accident and work towards complete e-governance," Chavan said.
With Chavan and his deputy Ajit Pawar occupying the first floor of Mantralaya, the ministers, whose cabins were destroyed in the fire, will use the Vidhan Bhavan complex to conduct their routine work.
Chavan told reporters that work had resumed in the state secretariat amid sombre atmosphere due to the unfortunate incident of fire. He thanked the bureaucracy, police, fire brigade and the PWD department for normalising the situation at the earliest.
"We need to work even harder now. File re-construction is difficult, but not impossible," he added. Chavan said visitors would not be allowed in Mantralaya for seven days from the security point of view.
"Visitors can meet the ministers at their official residences or in Vidhan Bhavan," he added. He said evacuation of people from the building was orderly after the fire broke out.
"Those trapped had taken individual decisions. My colleague Mohan More had come down to the ground floor, but went up again to look for Tukaram More, who was stuck on the sixth floor," he added.
Chavan said structural audit of the ground and first three floors of the main building and the entire annexe building said that it was safe for use. "Audit of the top three floors will be carried out on Monday," he said adding that the Mantralaya make-over plan was not a priority of the government.
He said water supply schemes, fodder camps and tankers will continue in the drought-hit areas of the state."The fire incident will not be an excuse for any delay," he said adding that Rs 50 crore have been released for drought-relief measures.