Frame of Steel for More Secure Durga Puja Pandal
On Puja-eve a truck arrives to dump not bamboo poles but steel pipes at the pandal site. Coir ropes are then replaced with steel wires and welding machines to join the pipes to form the structure of the pandal.
Such a sight may become a reality in the years to come. The seed of a step towards fire-proof Durga puja was sown on Sunday when the Forum for Durgotsab, an umbrella body of community puja organisers in the city, was invited to the talks table by the Institute for Steel Development and Growth (Insdag), a non-profit-making public-private joint venture steered by the ministry of steel, Joint Plant Committee (JPC) and six steel manufacturers.
The meeting was presided over by additional director-general (fire and emergency services) D.P. Biswas, director-general (Insdag) Sushim Banerjee and the executive secretary, JPC, G.K. Basak.
“We suggest the use of commercial steel pipes in place of bamboo poles. If a pandal catches fire, the first contact points are the coir ropes that snap and the flames spread along the bamboo poles. This causes the whole structure to collapse in no time, endangering the people inside. In contrast, steel can withstand temperatures up to 600°C before starting to yield slowly, giving time for evacuation. This is why steel is already in use in pandals in west and south India,” said Debashis Datta, a senior manager of the institute who made a presentation for 30-odd puja organisers.
“We have been recommending the use of steel superstructure for a long time as it reduces fire hazard,” said Biswas.
Another benefit claimed was quick set-up and dismantling, especially if couplings are used. “You would not need to block roads for weeks before and after Puja,” said Datta.
Forum president Nitish Saha welcomed the idea but pointed to cost analysis as the clincher. “Even if big pujas can afford extra expenses, small-budget pujas in alleys cannot. Steel manufacturers should supply the pipes at reduced rates or, in some cases, for free as part of their corporate social responsibility,” he said.
Preservation of the pipes was another talking point. While steel can be reused for a long time unlike bamboo poles that have to be discarded after three-four uses, finding enough space to keep them is difficult. “It will not be possible for clubs to store the pipes. This may work out only if decorators agree to use steel and keep the pandal budget within affordable limits,” said vice-president Partha Ghosh.
Some organisers are upbeat about the option. “We have invited the institute to study our pandal design and give us an estimate. Our pandal budget is Rs 7 lakh. If our decorator agrees to stick to the limit, we may try out a steel-framed pandal this year itself,” said Subhendu Ghosh of Bosepukur Talbagan, Kasba.
The institute has planned another meeting with the decorators and theme-makers.