A Building Collapse is Murder: The Guilty Rarely Punished
Thane, Vishnu Garden, Lalita Park, Girgaum- building collapses in our Metros are common. Why don’t we call it murder?
Three disasters. 230 casualties. Negligence.
In all three cases, there was one common thread — unauthorised construction that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) had not an inkling about. Or so they said.
Lalita Park: 70 Killed, Mass Murder?
On November 15, 2010, in just seconds, a five storey building came crashing down. 70 people killed, 120 seriously injured. 13 children orphaned.
A single storey structure in 1988, expanded to three storeys in 1990 and then five storeys in 2005. By 2010 it had 40 rooms housing 200 tenants, mainly immigrant worker families from East UP and Bihar.
Built on the Yamuna floodplains, the entire construction was illegal and in blatant violation of guidelines set by the Bureau of Indian Standards and the National Building Code of 2005.
The owner, one Amrit Pal Sachdeva, did nothing even after tenants informed him of prolonged water logging in the basement, which — reports later confirmed — had eaten into the foundation and caused the collapse.
A preliminary inquiry report submitted by the MCD found an assistant engineer, a junior engineer, two licensing inspectors and a house tax inspector of the MCD, guilty of “dereliction of duty”. They were suspended immediately. But today, all five officers are back at work.
When a building collapses, the licensing officer is questioned. Usually an FIR is registered against relevant officials . They are suspended from service, pending investigation. If found guilty, they are terminated from service.
— Senior MCD Official
70 people killed in Lalita Park - wasn’t it a fit case for MCD to sack the five negligent officials? How many more should have died?
The owner, AP Sachdeva, was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 of the IPC, and is currently in Delhi’s Tihar Jail.
The victims’ families got a paltry Rs two lakh each. Many still live in the area, which is packed with several unsafe, illegal, multi-storey tenements.
Chandni Mahal: A Civic Death Trap
In September 2011, Building #833 in Old Delhi’s Chandni Mahal area, collapsed. Seven killed, almost 30 injured.
Yet, the investigation that followed gave MCD a clean chit.
But first came a blame game. The Sheila Dikshit government said the owner had built illegally over an aging building and the BJP controlled MCD should have sealed or demolished the construction. The MCD claimed it had informed Delhi Police, but the police said they got no such information from the MCD.
The building contractor Jalaluddin and owner Anil Saini were arrested. But yet again, all zonal officers of the MCD were given a clean chit by the agency’s vigilance department.
Bara Hindu Rao: 2 Dead, No Report Filed
October 9, 2013 - Mohammed Naqqi Qureshi (68) and his son Mohammed Nafees (37) were caught unawares as their house tumbled onto them at Haji Mehboob Gali, in Delhi’s Bara Hindu Rao area. The rest of the family was not at home at the time.
The previously unified MCD had been trifurcated by 2013. The North Corporation ordered an inquiry, asking the Additional Commissioner in-charge and Chief Engineer what caused the collapse.
But no report was ever tabled. No MCD officer was even suspended.
For MCD to order an investigation a report is required. In this case, no report was tabled. So no officer was accused nor any verdict reached on this particular collapse.
— Yogendra Singh Mann, North Delhi Municipal Corporation
The building owner was arrested on charges of negligence and culpable homicide.
Neighbours claim, the victim’s families were never paid any compensation and are now back at their native village near Muzaffarnagar in UP.
Mohammed Naqqi’s son Nafees was the only earning member of the family. The media paid no attention, so the Government also ignored the family. They could not survive in Delhi with no home or income.
— Iqrar Mohammad, Resident of Haji Mehboob Gali
With each collapse, come inquiries and reports, but no action is taken.
Fresh surveys ‘identify’ unsafe building in various parts of the city, but no action follows.
So every few weeks, tragedy strikes. More lives lost. Families rendered homeless and penniless overnight.
Red tape, corruption, unabashed apathy - no one ever held accountable.
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