Numaish missing the forest for the trees

Hyderabad: The All India Industrial Exhibition, Aka, Numaish, has announced a spate of safety measures for the 2020 event to ensure the safety and security of hundreds of visitors who daily visit the grounds. The measures come in the wake of a devastating fire that spread across some parts of the fairgrounds last year resulting in heavy financial losses to the exhibitors as about 200 stalls were burnt down to ashes.

However, it seems the society that runs the fair is missing the forest for the trees, as the much touted safety measures undertaken at the behest Hyderabad High Court to obtain Police and Fire Department clearance as a condition to run the 2020 edition of the 80-year-old Numaish, do not include cutting down upon the huge number of stalls and kiosks that the organizers auction off each year to exhibitors who come from all over the country. This, as reported by the local and national media was one of the major causes for the fire tenders to reach in time and stampede caused.

The auction of the stalls and the bidding depending on the location and spots across the 23 acre grounds, that also houses educational institutes run by the society is the source of mouthwatering revenues. So much so, from a mere 100 stalls at the  first Numaish held in 1938, the number of stalls according to office-bearers of the society have now shot up to anywhere between 2000 and 2500 netting revenues between 15 to 20 crores to society.

MS Education Academy

Huge increase in the stalls

While the huge increase in the stalls and kiosks has resulted in shrinking spaces for public movement and rest areas and the congestion risks serious danger to the visitors and property in case of an accident or mishap.

Local and national media covering the 2019fire accident pointed out to the difficulty of fire tenders reaching the burning stalls due to congested narrow passageways, panicked and frightened visitors and stallholders trying to flee  through the narrow passages causing a stampede and suffocation. Fortunately, there were no casualties only minor injuries to a few among the public and the civil defense personnel.

The fair grounds during the early years and later till up to early 20’s  had plenty of open space and sit out areas for families, as compared to the present scenario when all such open spaces are sold out to kiosks selling all kinds of nicknacks.

The gates to the fair, Gandhi Bhavan, Ajanta and Goshamahal, serve as entrance and exit are now more like high-security entrances of military camps with steel fences revolving gates and spaces beyond the gates are also leased out are risk-prone in case of any mishap.

Measures

The measures announced include the construction of two large capacity water sumps that can hold up to 1.5 lakh liter, underground electricity cables, pipelines to firefight and 85 fire hydrants, trained volunteers, etc. 

Among the safety measures announced there is no mention of the steps taken to stop stallholders the use of gas cylinders for cooking. Exploding cooking gas cylinders also added to the blazing fires of that fateful night of January 29th, 2019. 

The society must make arrangments for a special corner on the grounds for exhibitors where they can attend to their cooking and other needs to avoid any mishap.

By Syed Qamar Hasan (qamarhasan50@hotmail.com)

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