Hotel Tragedy

Jammu city is not only the winter capital of the State; it is also the significant transit circuit for all the districts of Jammu region except Kathua, and Samba, plus the entire Kashmir and Ladakh regions. Apart from being the main city with great rush of people from all parts of the State, Jammu is also required to handle tens of thousands of pilgrims and visitors to the holy shrines on day to day basis. Commercial and social activity has increased hundred times in this busy and overcrowded city. As such, entrepreneurs have been vying with one another in deriving maximum benefit out of the opportunities for business thrown up by great influx of people, pilgrims, visitors and businessmen in the city of Jammu.  In this background, hotels, restaurants, bed and breakfast accommodations etc. have mushroomed. Wherever small space is available, it has been converted into a hotel, motel, restaurant, lounges etc. but without paying any attention to the basic requirements that have to be provided in a place of public gathering. The tragedy that has happened in Hotel Neelam in the crowded area of Jammu Bus Sand is the result of so many things put together.
First of all, did the owner obtain permission from the JMC for converting the building at a particular site into a hotel? Second, did the Department of Tourism issue a certificate of feasibility of opening Neelam Hotel at the Bus Stand? Thirdly did the police and other concerned organizations like tourism etc. ensue that the hotel had installed safety measures like fire extinguisher? Why was combustible stuff like tyres stored in the basement wherefrom the smoke and flames first appeared? Why did not the hotel owner ensure safety of this store and made regular checks lest short circuits would happen and then the stuff would flare up.
The tragedy has taken four precious lives including that of a selection grade constable and ten others are severely injured some critically. This loss of precious human lives has happened exclusively owing to the negligence and carelessness of the owner of the hotel. It is tragic that the families of these victims have suffered the loss of their dear members owing to negligence of a person who cared for money and not for the safety of human beings.
But apart from the owner of the hotel who happens to have political connections the Government agencies that are there to exercise checks on people indulging in illegal activities are also responsible for allowing such places to do business without taking into account the pre-requisites. The inquiry ordered by the Chief Minister should also go into the negligence of concerned agencies in regard to questions that we have raised above. We have seen that in such cases where the accused have political clout or is fairly financially strong can get away without being punished under law. We do not know what will happen in the present case and whether those held responsible by the inquiry will be brought to book or not. Accountability is the casualty of bad governance and we have nothing in hand to convince us that the matter will be brought to logical conclusion. The Government may consider giving financial assistance to the deceased persons as a matter of humanitarian assistance, but actually it is the owner of the hotel who must bear the maximum brunt. We will emphasize on the authorities that this tragic incident should become a catalyst to widespread scrutiny of all the hotels, motels, restaurants, bed and breakfast lodgements, sarais etc. in the city whether all of these are equipped with safety measures as required under statutory rules and laws. We know that in narrow lanes and bye-lanes of the city of Jammu sign boards of hotels have been put up and brokers stand in streets yelling out that cheap accommodation is available and in these ways tourists, pilgrims, night staying customers and others are lured to take up the accommodation. This is a very large and thriving business. Nobody asks whether they have the basic pre-requisites of a hotel where customers have to stay as human beings and be assured of safety. The Municipality, the Department of Tourism, Department of Ecology and Environment and the Police Department all shall have to come together and constitute teams of their official for random check of hotels in the city and sign a certificate that these small and big hotels are provided with all necessary safety gadgets.

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