Defunct fire engine gobbles Rs 7.5 lakh every year

ILAM: Ilam municipality has been spending Rs 7.5 lakhs each year for the fire engine which is never used for extinguishing fire.

According to the Account Section of the municipality, in the fiscal year 2009/10, Rs 7 lakh 36 thousand was spent for providing salary and other facilities to 4 staffers of the fire brigade and for the maintenance of the fire engine.

Ministry of Local Development provides Rs 4 lakhs for the maintenance of the fire engines and the budget falling short should be managed from the municipality's resources. To fulfil the short amount, the municipality collects 20 per cent additional tax from the locals as business tax.

The fire engine was donated to the municipality by the Chinese government in 2001. After receiving the fire engine, there have been huge incidents of fire in Phikkal, Pashupatinagar and the district headquarters Ilam. However the fire engine hardly came into use. During the fire in Pashupatinagar in February 27, 2002, the fire engine had broken down on the way to its destination. Twenty-five houses were gutted in the incident. In another incident of fire in Aayush Tea Industry of Phikkal in December 15, 2009, the fire engine had broken down on its way to the destination. After that, the fire engine was taken to Birtamod in Jhapa for maintenance. It has not been used since then. It was not even used in the incident of fire that occurred in Ilam municipality destroying 18 houses.

Meanwhile, the locals have said that the municipality, being too careless, did not repair the fire engine even within 2 months. The executive officer of the municipality Yubaraj Dahal said that the fire engine was sent for maintenance with an estimated cost of Rs 96 thousands. "The fire engine could not be used during the fire as it was blocked in Jhapa after the bill of Rs 2.5 lakhs was not approved by the meeting of the political parties."

The investigation committee formed, following the incident, under the coordination of assistant CDO Rewati Raman Pokharel, has directed the executive officer of the municipality to keep the fire engine in order all the time.

The Committee has also decided to take action against the employees of the fire brigade who were found to be careless.

Issuing a press release, the municipality office, has apologised for not being able to use the fire engine when needed.

Executive officer Dahal also said that there was no any alternative to bringing a new fire engine as the engines donated by China were found to be useless in other places as well. He said, "My voices were not heard, though I frequently requested the Constituent Assembly Chairman and the ministry for providing a new fire engine saying that the old one was going to bring an end to my job."