The devastating fire incident at Sarthana area of Surat in Gujarat has sent shockwaves across the country. As many as 20 students died due to suffocation or falling of the windows in an attempt to escape fire.
The fire engulfed a coaching centre, where students were taking tuitions. They were caught unaware till the inferno engulfed the entire top floor of the building where the centre was located.
The incident has set alarm bells ringing in Jammu and Kashmir about the safety of students, who take tuitions in private coaching centres.
Soon after the horrific incident in Surat, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmed Khan, ordered fire audit of the schools and coaching centres in the Valley.
According to the media reports there are about 550 private coaching centres in the Valley and as many as 60,000 students undertake coaching in these institutes every year.
The government ordering fire safety audit is a welcome step but many more steps need to be taken to ascertain how safe these coaching centres are. The fire safety audit of the government schools was conducted in 2016 after the unrest in Kashmir ended. In 2016 many schools were set ablaze across the Valley by the miscreants and arsonists. This prompted the administration to conduct fire safety audit in the schools.
Since then no audit has taken place. During the past two to three years the number of coaching centres has increased manifolds. The government should set up the squads, who can visit these centres and check the safety measures which have been put at place. This needs to be done on the war footing basis.
The inferno at Surat and young boys and girls jumping out of the windows was too tragic as these young souls didn’t deserve to die like this. One hopes that administration in Kashmir ensures that coaching centres comply with the safety norms which are mandatory for obtaining a no objection certificate.