The Kamala Mills tragedy had claimed 14 lives, but the outrage that followed might end up helping save others going forward.
Zomato has said that it’ll now display fire safety licenses of restaurants on the restaurant listings on its platform. “We are now also working with restaurants to put up fire safety license scans on Zomato,” the company said in a blogpost. And Zomato hinted that it would publicly shame restaurants who didn’t comply. “For restaurants which fail to furnish their fire safety certificates, we are going to put a “Denied” symbol on their pages, so that our users know that that restaurant failed to share their fire safety certificate with us.”
It’s a commendable measure, and can help prevent accidents such as the Kamala Mills accident in Mumbai late last year. On 28th December, a fire had broken out at the 1Above Restaurant at Kamala Mills, though later reports suggested that the fire had originated at Mojo’s Bistro from the flying embers of a hookah. The fire had quickly spread to nearby establishments, and 14 people had lost their lives.
It had later emerged that both 1Above and Mojo’s Bistro didn’t have adequate fire safety procedures in place. Mumbai Fire Brigade’s deputy chief fire officer R. Chaudhary said both establishments did not have emergency exits or working fire safety equipment, and flammable material such as tarpaulin sheets and artificial flowers for decoration aggravated the blaze.
Following the fire, some commentators had taken to the Zomato pages of the two restaurants to attack the restaurant’s management for their lax safety procedures. “This incident made us take a step back and think that at some point of time in the past, we could have done something to reduce the probability of such an incident; and that realization pains us immensely,” Zomato said. “Looking forward, we are committing to using the power of Zomato as a discovery platform to bring in a systemic change in the entire industry so that people eat and live better.”
But driving change will not be easy, and Zomato admitted as much in its blogpost. Most restaurants in India need a fire license to start operating, but not all restaurants have them, and some might even have fake licenses. But a separate tab on Zomato that displays a restaurant’s fire safety certificate will certainly incentivize restaurants to get their papers in place, and hopefully get the safety procedures operational on the ground. Zomato reaches millions of diners every month, and people might think twice about visiting a restaurant that has a “Denied” in its fire safety certificate column. And if restaurants across India can start getting their fire safety procedures in place, the lives lost in the Kamala Mills tragedy won’t have been vain.