MUMBAI: A major fire broke out on the premises of the regional transport office (RTO) at Tardeo early on Sunday. The blaze, which was first noticed around 5.20am, raged for at least two hours, completely gutting the area that housed the learner‘s driving licence section located beside a petrol pump. No one was injured. The cause of the fire is not known.
While documents, computers and furniture have been destroyed, RTO officials said they have a back-up of records. The learner‘s driving licence tests scheduled for Monday morning-around 400 aspirants turn up every day-could be affected as RTO officials struggled until Sunday evening to zero in on an alternative location to conduct tests at the Tardeo premises on Monday.
State transport commissioner Shekhar Channe told TOI that no data has been lost. “All data has been digitized. Also, we have a back-up on another server kept at a safe location,” he said.
Lone guard at RTO was first to detect fire
The Tardeo RTO handles driving licence applications for the island city. This includes areas between Cuffe Parade/Colaba up to Sion/Mahim. On an average, up to 400 people arrive for tests daily at the Tardeo office. RTO officials claimed that tests would be conducted “smoothly” on Monday.
The fire, which was doused by 7.35 am, was first notice by the lone watchman deployed to guard the premises. Office paraphernalia like computers, printers, servers, biometric devices, licence documents and furniture was destroyed.
While the cause of the fire has not yet been ascertained, a fire brigade official said on the condition of anonymity that a short circuit seems to have sparked the blaze. Sources also said that the possibility of sabotage has not yet been ruled out.
A deputy transport officer said that they were arranging for new computers, printers, biometric machines and office furniture from other RTOs and other government departments.
The fire-ravaged premises, spread on a 10,000-sq-ft space, had a huge waiting hall and an air-conditioned room to conduct driving tests. “Now, most of the work will have to be done out in the open or in cramped spaces,” said a source. Fire brigade officials said that a CNG petrol pump is located beside the RTO office.
A senior RTO official said that important documents besides hardware have been gutted. “Most documents were those submitted as proof to obtain licences and also for issue of new licences,” said the official.
In September 2016, a luxury bus had caught fire on the same premises under “mysterious” circumstances. A year earlier, a godown where old documents were stacked was completely gutted and at that time there was an indication of “sabotage”, said a source.
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