F&ES Deptt marred by staff shortage, official neglect

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The Fire and Emergency Services (F&ES) Department in the State is facing acute staff shortage with 1700 sanctioned posts lying vacant.
Sources in the F&ES Department revealed that the department at present has shortage of about 50 percent of sanctioned strength for man power. “The department at present is functional at skeletal staff. The duties assigned to department are not limited to firefighting only for which it was initially established but has also to function as first responders for all types of emergencies and is also consultant for fire prevention,” the sources said.
”In the fire stations, four to six service personnel are posted, against the requirement of 12. The district officers have to take charge for two to three districts and there is grave shortage of middle level officers as well”, sources added.
“The department has about 3600 posts of sanctioned strength, of which about 1700 are lying vacant. A recruitment process to fill the posts of firemen was initiated three years ago but it was put on hold due to unknown reasons. There has been no recruitment of mid-level officers since last three decades”, said a senior officer.
“Majority of the middle level officers have almost reached the retirement age which makes difficult for them to function as team leaders for rescue and firefighting should be quick, hardworking and energetic,” a top-official of F&ES told Excelsior.
“The State has 22 districts but there are only 11 officers for 21 districts while the post of one officer at Ramban is lying vacant. The shortage can be gauged by the fact that only a single officer is overlooking five districts including Srinagar, Ganderbal, Budgam, Leh and Kargil”, the officer said.
The shortage of manpower is to be viewed after keeping in mind that 175 F&ES stations are functional across the State and as per departmental sources there is immediate requirement to increase the number of the stations given the population.
Another F&ES officer posted in Srinagar said at present the department is facing lot of hurdles to provide consultancy for schools which is a pre-requisite for granting them affiliation. He said: “The Valley has three thousand schools and each of them is required to get No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the department after proper inspection and survey on ground which at the rate of one day per school will take three thousand days.”
Sources in the department said that apart from staff shortage the other main issue faced by the fireman is no exclusive training centre like that of police. “Till date not a single training centre has been established in the State to train service personnel with regard to the day to day developments in the field of rescue techniques and firefighting which is evolving at a rapid pace in view of introduction of disaster management response,” said the sources.
The lower staff like firemen and drivers who spoke to Excelsior on the condition of anonymity expressed their resentment against the Home Department for neglecting the F&ES. The lower staff rued the Government apathy and said they are not satisfied with the facilities they are provided. “Due to shortage, we are not allowed to go for leave and take care of our families. Some of the drivers at times abstain from duty when things go out of control beyond the point,” said a station officer posted in downtown Srinagar.
The official sources said the department previously was reorganized in 1979 and essentially it is working on the same sanctioned strength with some additional patch of work made during reorganization of districts and other occasions.
While admitting the shortage of staff and neglect, a top officer of the department, who insisted not to be named, said: “the negligence by the successive regimes has led to a situation where it shall be essential for the department to wind up the stations simply for shortage of manpower.”
The officer, however, expressed helplessness and said no one so far has paid attention towards the F&ES Department. “It is said whenever you are in trouble call Fire Services but at present the Fire Service is dying and virtually it is at last breath but nobody is listening. It is imperative to outline utility of the Services for the community,” he lamented.

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