Assam CM orders CID probe into Janata Bhavan fire

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Guwahati, Sep 11 (UNI) Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today visited the fire-ravaged Janata Bhavan, the state's former seat of power, here and announced a CID inquiry into the cause of last evening's devastating fire.

A portion of the Bhavan, which once housed the entire Assam state machinery, was ravaged in a major fire that broke out at 1800 hours, destroying completely the offices of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), United Nations Development Programme, a video conference room of NIC, parliamentary secretary Ajit Singh's chambers and portions of adjoining departments.

The Chief Minister, however, claimed that no important documents or files were lost in the fire as all vital records had already been shifted to the new office quarters at the adjoining new capital complex.

To allegations that it could have been a sabotage attempt, Mr Gogoi said, '' It cannot be ruled out and the CID probe will find that out.'' He also informed that the government was studying the possibility of preserving the Janata Bhavan as a heritage site.

Preliminary investigations have pointed to an short circuit as the cause, with forensic department today collecting samples of wires and ash to check especially for petroleum substance. Over 5000 files were destroyed in the fire that had broke out from the room of the private secretary to Information Commissioner Biren Gohain.

Mr Gohain is reported to have left the office just minutes before the fire broke, with the watchman Banajit Das first noticing the flames emanating out from the private secretary's room when he had gone to lock up for the night.

This is the third major fire in Janata Bhavan, after devastating fires had destroyed portions of the building a few months back and another in 2005, when the vigilance department's records were lost.

Former Chief Secretary H N Das had written to the government earlier on the fire threat to the Janata Bhavan, while the then-additional CS C K Das had even arranged for a fire tender to be parked inside the premises, though it was removed after a while.

UNI SG KK AKJ VC1816

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