The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), V Citizens Action Network (VCAN) – a leading citizen’s organization in India, Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini (RMP) – the C20 secretariat, National Federation of Engineers for Electrical Safety (NFE), Savishkar India and several individual experts came together recently to launch ‘Atmanirbhar Suraksha’, a campaign for fire and electrical safety as India progresses swiftly on economic and social development in the Amrit Kaal.

Participants and speakers at the launch of “Aatmanirbhar Suraksha” campaign in Mumbai last week

India has made rapid progress in urbanization in the last two decades and it is expected to gain further momentum. Several reports suggest that India’s urban population size will almost double between 2018 and 2050. The National Commission on Population in India predicts that close to 38.6 percent of Indians (600 million) will live in urban areas by 2036. As urbanization advances, experts in the country have opined the need to strengthen safety for its citizens especially fire safety given accidental fires occur due to negligence, unplanned structuring of urban buildings, among other factors.

Giving context to the situation, Mr. Rajeev Sharma, Deputy Director General, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) highlighted, “Data from National Crimes Bureau highlights that in the last decade we lost 110,000 lives because of electrocution, that means around 11,000 lives in a year or 30 lives in a day. We come across reports of short circuit incidents almost every day. Lot of damage is caused to human lives and also to the property. We cannot allow this to continue for a long time, we have to provide solutions. The solutions have to be workable, and they have to be implemented through a well-organized mechanism.”

Further strengthening the conversation, Mr. Ajit Kumar Jain, IAS, (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Maharashtra and Former State Information Commissioner, said, “The root cause of fire accidents is due to electrical short-circuits and electrical short-circuit take place largely due to poor workmanship and primarily due to the use of sub-standard materials, compounded with a tendency by all of us, as a citizen, to overload the electrical system without understanding the implications.”

There is a dire need to have convergence between electrical safety and fire safety. The convergence should not be at the grassroot level (only) it should be at the top level also,” Mr. Jain added.

Launching the campaign under the banner of Civil20 India, Mrs. Indrani Malkani, Chairperson, V Citizens Action Network (VCAN) shared, “We have collectively taken a step further and decided that rather than leaving all the checking to the Fire Departments and Municipal Authorities alone to monitor each and every individual property, nothing stops us as citizens and individuals to take charge of our own safety. So, with this in mind VCAN with the Bureau of Indian Standards, NFE, Savishkar India and RMP has launched the campaign of “Atmanirbhar Suraksha” and decided collectively to take forward this message in the coming days, and this journey includes each and every one of you.”

A key part of the campaign will be to promote awareness and the usage of BIS standard compliant products. The standards are already in place; hence the focus of the campaign will be to promote the awareness of these standards among the public and the benefits of their use. Other initiatives taken by BIS on electrical safety will also be highlighted through the campaign. The campaign will also highlight the role of citizens and the steps to be taken at an individual level to ensure one own’s safety. This is not only important in raising awareness for the broader themes of fire and electrical safety, but also promotes the message of “Atmanirbhar Suraksha“.

The campaign was launched in an event hosted by VCAN, BIS, NFE, RMP and Savishkar India. The event saw participation and discussions from several renowned names including the speakers Mr. Rajeev Sharma Deputy Director General BIS; Mr. S. S. Warick, Director Maharashtra Fire Services; Mr. Hemant Sali, Technical Advisor to Ministry of Roads Highways & Transport, Government of India, for Mumbai Region; Mr. V. Ranganathan, IAS (Retd), Former Chief Secretary, Maharashtra and Trustee, VCAN; Mr. S. Gopa Kumar, President NFE; Mr. Devendra Pai, Chief Academic Officer at Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini (RMP) the Secretariat of Civil20 India (C20); Mr. Krantisagar More, National Convenor Savishkar India; Ms. Preeti Bhatnagar, Head of Electrotechnical department of BIS; Mr. Ritwik Anand, Member Secretary ETD20 BIS. The audience was addressed by special invitee Mr. Ajit Kumar Jain, IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary and Former State Information Commissioner.

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The discussions were moderated by Mr. S. Gopa Kumar, President NFE and the public interaction was conducted by Mrs. Indrani Malkani, Chairperson, V Citizens Action Network (VCAN). Other subject matter experts, including Mr. Ravindra Ambulgekar Chief Fire Officer, Mumbai Fire Brigade along with his senior deputies, and industry representatives joined the campaign launch. Mr. Radhakrishnan Pillai, renowned author of Corporate Chanakya; Mr. Bhupen Chheda from Roman Group; and electrical engineers from Taj Group of Hotels were also present among others.

In addition to the discussion, a live demonstration of electrical components such as wires, switches, and appliances was conducted for the audience by NFE representatives to show the major difference in quality and safety between BIS certified products and cheaper uncertified alternatives.

According to available public reports, electrical faults are cited as the leading cause of fires and have been identified as the main reason behind recent fires. Past incidents show that most fire accidents take place due to three major reasons: electrical short circuits and gas cylinder/stove bursts, human negligence, and ill-formed habits.

About the organizers

V Citizens Action Network (VCAN)’s objective, as a Societal Organization, is to establish linkages between citizens and their government, enabling the public to be Smart and Safe Consumers, and be well informed on how they can keep themselves and their families secured. It is a registered not for profit and non-political public Trust, and was set up to address issues of public concern through effective engagement channels like a responsive web portal, live talk shows, social networks and action impacted programmes.

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the National Standards Body of India and develops and publishes Indian Standards. BIS implements Conformity Assessment Schemes, recognizes and runs laboratories for Conformity Assessment, Implement Hallmarking, and most importantly work for consumer empowerment. BIS also conducts capacity building programs on quality assurance and represents the country in ISO & IEC.

National Federation of Engineers for Electrical Safety (NFE) are a group of passionate Electrical Engineering professionals working in the field of Electrical Safety. Their members have decades of experience as Electrical Inspectorates, Electrical Designers, Safety Officers, and Engineers in the field of Quality and Standards. Their objective is to make Every Consumer and their property free from Electrical Accidents and avoid failures in Electrical Installation and Connected Equipment.

Savishkar India is governed by Vidyarthi Kalyan Niyas (VKN) Bhopal, MP. It provides incubation platforms and internships to those who want to become entrepreneurs. Bringing out talent, the organization encourages your creative ideas, provides a healthy dialogue with industry for the technological and sustainable development of India.

Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini (RMP) the C20 secretariat responsibility has been given to Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini (RMP), India. Registered as a Society in 1982, RMP was initiated as a unique leadership development academy with an aim to nurture, impart training and capacity building of elected representatives, social workers, as well as people running institutions, organizations, and start-ups.