Highly vulnerable to fire hazards, reports that Margao’s New Municipal Market is just a spark away from tragedy cannot be taken lightly. The labyrinth of shops arranged in a congested manner with vendors cramming into every available inch of space, including passages, presents visages which only accentuate this threat. Yet no serious measures have been taken to mitigate the danger! The intricate maze of electrical cables, some of which have come loose and are seen dangling overhead, has not invited much of concern from the shopkeepers who continue to go about conducting their business unmindful of the lurking danger. Apprehensions shown by the Fire and Emergency Services about the clogged passages impeding rescue operations by the department in case of a disaster hardly seem to have disturbed the New Market occupants. Nor has the Margao Municipal Council shown any undue haste in having the passages cleared of all the ‘seemingly organised’ encroachment! The pandemic has however instilled a sense of cautiousness among the shopkeepers as was evident in the arrangements made for operating shops on alternate days and the decision to keep the market closed when some positive cases were detected in the premises. Probably this same zealousness prompted the New Market shop vendors to approach the Chief Officer of MMC and submit a representation highlighting the security concerns in the market. Besides the need to install new light fixtures and replacing old wires, the importance of having fire-hydrants in the market complex too was insisted upon. It however comes as a big surprise that the shop keepers have only now realized the paramount importance of adopting high standards of safety in public places. For that matter, the urgency to have CCTV surveillance at all entry points into the market is not lost on the municipal administration either. As pointed out by the new market vendors, CCTVs will to an extent secure their shops. But did the New Market vendors need the Walke-murder case to jolt them out of complacence! As shortcomings which were highlighted by the concerned authorities repeatedly over the past few years, the shop keepers’ failure to register the significance of having the necessary safety measures in place is indicative of their inattentiveness to the security of their own business establishments.
PACHU MENON, Margao