Fire breaks out inside MP secretariat complex, CM appoints probe committee

Smoke billows out after a fire broke out, at Madhya Pradesh Secretariat, in Bhopal, Saturday, March 9, 2024.
Smoke billows out after a fire broke out, at Madhya Pradesh Secretariat, in Bhopal, Saturday, March 9, 2024.

Bhopal | A major fire broke out on the third floor of a building in the Madhya Pradesh secretariat complex 'Vallabh Bhawan' here on Saturday morning, but no one was injured and the blaze was extinguished after more than six hours' efforts, officials said.

Chief Minister Mohan Yadav formed a seven-member committee to probe the cause of the incident, a government release said. The panel will submit its initial report in three days and a detailed one in 15 days, it added.

The fire was noticed around 9.30 am, and spread to the fourth and fifth floors too. Personnel of the Army, National Disaster Response Force and police firefighters joined the municipal fire brigade in the fire-dousing operation which ended around 4.15 pm, officials said.

It being a Saturday, the government offices inside were closed and the premises were almost empty when the fire broke out, sources said.

State Congress chief Jitu Patwari claimed the fire was a "conspiracy" to destroy the evidence of corruption. He, along with Leader of Opposition in the assembly Umang Sarang, staged a sit-in outside the secretariat for a couple of hours, seeking a CBI probe into the fire.

The fire was put out completely by 4.15 pm, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation's Fire Officer Rameshwar Neel told PTI.

"Our control room got the call around 9.30 am. Our tankers reached the spot in ten minutes to find the police fire brigade already in action. The police fire brigade is the first responder to fires at government establishments," he added.

The blaze which started on the third floor reached the fourth and fifth floors too. It caused the worst damage to three or four offices on fifth floor, Neel said.

Around 40 to 50 fire tenders and water bowsers (tankers) including a few from the Army fought the blaze, he said.

Asked if sacks containing papers lying on the secretariat premises had been removed before the fire started, Neel said he had no information in that regard.

Some sanitation workers near gates 5 and 6 noticed smoke coming from the building around 9.30 am and alerted authorities, sources said.

"I was in Bhopal, and I learnt that a fire has broken out on the third floor of the old building of Vallabh Bhawan. I sought information from the collector and asked the chief secretary to monitor the situation. The fire has been brought under control," chief minister Yadav told reporters.

"A directive has been issued to (take steps to) prevent such incidents and ensure that no papers and no important files are destroyed. I hope that such incidents do not recur," he added.

Congress leader Patwari claimed this was the fifth incident of fire at Vallabh Bhawan since the BJP came to power in 2003.

"Which files have been burnt? Of which departments?" he asked in a statement, alleging that the fire was a "conspiracy" of the BJP government steeped in "corruption, indebtedness and crime" to destroy the evidence.

State BJP spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi dismissed Patwari's tirade, stating that the opposition party has not established a single charge of corruption in all these years and it should instead look at the record of the UPA government.

The probe panel set up by the chief minister will be headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Public Health) Mohammad Suleman, and it will examine the cause of the fire, extent of the damage, and fix the responsibility for the incident, according to the government statement.

It will also recommend preventive measures.

The other members of the probe committee would be Principal Secretary (PS) Home Sanjay Dubey, PS Urban Development and Housing Neeraj Mandloi, PS Public Works D P Ahuja, ADG Fire Services Ashutosh Rai, municipal commissioner Pawan Sharma and police commissioner Harinarayan Chari Mishra.

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