Giving birth is considered to be a painful process. It, however, results in a new life – a joyous occasion for most. In the case of Uday Vijayan and Beyond Carlton, it was the needless loss of nine innocent lives on one afternoon in February 2010 that gave birth to a citizen-led movement on fire safety.
From the ashes of the Carlton Towers fire was born Beyond Carlton, the first-of-its-kind initiative in India that is aimed at making the common man more aware about various aspects of fire safety, and the authorities accountable.
It has not been easy for Uday to write or speak about the incident. He lost his son in the fire, after all. But he does gather the courage to speak up — for a larger objective. The fact is that a few simple precautions could have prevented toxic fumes from spreading to all the floors and would have led to the safe evacuation of occupants.
Six years later, through the Beyond Carlton movement, Uday wants to ensure that no more families shed tears about the loss of a beloved one to a fire that could have well been prevented.
One of the first steps taken by Beyond Carlton a few months after the accident, was to file a public interest litigation (PIL) petition with the Karnataka High Court with respect to fire safety standards in the state with specific reference to violations by builders, sanctioning authorities and residents. The PIL also sought empowerment of the Fire Department to inspect and issue notices in case violations were found.
The direct outcome of this petition was that the High Court issued directions to the State Government to notify the fire safety measures that are to be taken up by builders and residents, under Section 13 of the Karnataka Fire Safety Act 1964. The notification was issued on July 7, 2011 – less than a year and a half post the fatal fire accident at Carlton Towers. These measures were to be based on the action plan submitted by the Fire and Emergency Services and the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). The aforementioned Section empowers the Government to issue directions to authorities in relation to preventive measures.
This has been but a small step in Beyond Carlton’s endeavour to make Bangalore and Karnataka fire safe.
Since then this citizen’s initiative has been working tirelessly in the area of spreading fire safety awareness. Sharing their work and findings through blogs and social media channels and creating India’s first fire safety community on their website is another way to reach out and spread information. They have been actively collaborating with schools, work spaces and resident welfare associations to conduct training and seminars relevant to fire safety. Speaking out at seminars and conferences, Uday and his team has been doing their best to make citizens more aware.
They have also launched India’s first fire safety app in collaboration with an NGO named Janaagraha and Karnataka Fire Department.
Now citizens in Bangalore can lodge complaints of fire safety regulation violations through the app and they will be followed up. Download the app here.
And it is here that they seek the help of the common man. This season of giving, Beyond Carlton launched a campaign to seek stories from fire accident survivors. These stories of grit and determination, positive lessons and learnings will help others to know how exactly to face a fire accident and emerge triumphant.
We seek those among you who are fire survivors or know someone who is one to reach out and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Select stories will be featured on the Beyond Carlton website and its social media platforms. Know more about Beyond Carlton here.