Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation found itself at the receiving end after a four- storey building collapsed on another structure in the adjoining slums in Malvani, Malad, killing 12 people and leaving seven others injured. In their defence, civic officials claimed that the structures were on collector’s land and the civic body had been notifying the latter about dangerous buildings from time to time.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official said, “We have been notifying the collector’s office from time to time about illegal structures coming up, as well as dangerous buildings. We had requested them to carry out an inspection of these structures too.”
Since the tragedy late on Wednesday night, some correspondence and letters has come to light, showing that in 2019, the BMC’s P south ward had notified the deputy collector (encroachment) about the dilapidated structure at Malvani Gate No. 8, in New Collector Compound.
As per these letters, the BMC’s P south ward officer and assistant engineer had not only notified the deputy collectors about the structures but also suggested they carry out an inspection and had offered to help with manpower for the same. One of the letters is dated May 2019 and another, September 2019.
Besides this, the BJP corporator of Kurar village, Vinod Mishra and MP Gopal Shetty too had written to the BMC to take action against the illegal structure.
“The buildings are constructed illegally and had serious structural faults, we have been pointing this out from time to time, but all they know is to pass the buck and not take action, leading to such a tragedy,” alleged Mishra.
War of words
Meanwhile, a blame game erupted between the ruling and opposition parties in the state. It began with BJP MLA Ram Kadam attacking the Shiv Sena-led BMC for allowing illegal and dangerous structures in slums like Malvani.
Kadam said it was not an accident but ‘murder’ due to the BMC’s negligence. He went on to say that it was a planned assassination, by allowing the construction of the building with unauthorised height.Watch Video: Two women slip into manhole in Bhandup; BMC orders re-inspection
BJP National Secretary Sunil Deodhar tweeted: “Malad, Malvani construction was illegal. Muslims who died and injured are victims of corruption & vote bank politics of MLA Aslam Shaikh, CM Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar and RahulGandhi, who have blood on their hands and Mumbaikars must use EVMs in upcoming BMC Elections and teach them a lesson.”
BJP corporator Mishra added: “The guardian minister and MLA Aslam Shaikh attributed the Wednesday’s building collapse incident to the incessant rains. Mumbai witnesses heavy rain every year and every year we see, house or wall collapse incidents in Malvani. These are illegal structures and have become part of Malvani’s development pattern on collector’s land, MHADA land or BMC land. Booking the owner of the building and contractor is not the only solution, BMC staff or staff of collector’s office, whoever was negligent in this matter, should be booked for homicide.”
Mishra has even demanded that MLA and minister Aslam Shaikh must resign after this incident.
Responding to the allegations, Mayor Kishori Pednekar said: “Culprits should take responsibility for this. More than looking into whose administration it was, what should be determined is who was responsible for this. Had everyone been responsible, it wouldn’t have happened.”
“Let BJP bark if they want to. They think that everything is the fault of Shiv Sena and they themselves are clean,” she retorted.
Illegal and dilapidated structures
As per the data available through RTI, 3,945 structures have collapsed in the city in six years between 2013 and 2019.
In all these incidents, 300 people have lost their lives and around 1,146 people were injured. Details available through Right to Information (RTI) procured by activist Shakeel Shaikh, show that in 2013, 531 structures collapsed, leading to 101 deaths and 183 injuries. “Among the structures which collapsed, 90 per cent of them are buildings, while other structures, such as walls or roofs, comprise 10 per cent,” said Shaikh.
In 2014, there were 343 such incidents, leading to 21 deaths and 100 injuries. Subsequently, there were 417 collapses, 15 deaths, and 120 injuries in 2015, Shaikh informed.
In 2016, 486 structures had collapsed leading to 24 deaths and 172 injuries, while in 2017 and 2018 there were 568 and 619 accidents, respectively. The highest number of structures collapsed in 2019 - 943 - leading to 137 deaths and 579 injuries.
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