Thane: In one of Maharashtra's worst building collapses in a decade, 58 people have died and 61 have been injured after a seven-storeyed building in Laxmi Compound in Mumbra, a suburb of Thane, crashed down like a pack of cards into a heap of rubble on Thursday evening. However, even after a day, authorities are struggling with rescue operations.
A population spurt in the Mumbra-Kalwa belt in Thane district has led to a booming illegal construction business with an estimated 2 lakh unauthorized flats. Like the building that collapsed on Thursday, many in the area have come up in a span of just a couple of months.
The municipality has issued notices to around 250 buildings, but many are demanding that municipal officials themselves should be prosecuted for a tragedy of this magnitude.
The construction of the building had begun in February, and was completed within two months at a breakneck speed. Around 28 people moved in immediately. No action was taken even after a resident wrote letters to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, warning of the danger.
Thane Municipal Commissioner RA Rajeev has put the onus on the Forest Department saying, "Two notices were sent and the Forest Department was told repeatedly to take action. We had even asked the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) to cut off the electricity to the building".
Meanwhile, former Mumbai municipal commissioner GR Khairnar, known as the Demolition Man for his firm stand against illegal constructions, has questioned the Thane Municipality's motive in turning a blind eye to the building's illegalities. "There is a lame excuse that municipal authorities cannot cope with illegal construction. Police, municipality all are involved in this so each can blame the other. Builder will be punished but municipal authorities are more responsible," said Khairnar.
Despite the blame game, the essential questions that surrounds this tragedy are:
1. How did this building get an electricity and water connection, enabling residents to live in it?
2. Why did the municipality not act against residents even after learning the building did not have an occupancy certificate?