Mumbai: Last week’s fire burnt three whole floors of the secretariat building, but the expenses incurred in damage control is burning a hole in the taxpayers’ pocket, with the government deciding to claim Rs 100 crore of public funds to restore the building. The government is also spending quite a large packet in renting office spaces for its temporary chambers.
According to a restoration plan drawn up by renowned architect Raja Aederi and submitted by the Public Works Department (PWD) the extensive damage control work will cost over Rs 100 crore to restore the building it pristine condition. Even a few years ago, Aederi had submitted his Mantralaya makeover plan, which was vehemently backed by PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal. But it fell through owing to political differences between the NCP and the Congress.
The refurbishment plan incorporates the latest innovations in fire safety, including fire resistant flooring, partitions and furniture. The gutted floors will be strengthened with the latest firefighting equipments. The estimate of Rs 100 crore does not account for the cost of interiors.
A swanky new control room will also be constructed, which will be in constant touch with all the fire stations and important establishments of the state government located within a radius of 10 km. As soon as an incidence of fire is reported, an alarm will be despatched simultaneously to all these offices, said a senior official. The official also revealed that the cost of the refurbishment was set to go up, as materials for fire-proof walls and flooring are exorbitant.
Meanwhile, the government has decided to rent a few floors of the Malabar Hill telephone exchange in order to shift a few departments, mostly state commissions which deal with administrative work and have little to do with the public.
The government’s expenditure on rents to MTNL and the World Trade Centre — whose premises it will occupy till it regains use of the headquarters — is also quite hefty. New modular furniture is being purchased for these offices, substantially burdening the state exchequer. On the basis of PWD’s plan, a supplementary demand for the necessary budget is being processed, which will come up for discussion during the monsoon session of the state legislature next month.