For nearly four months, the civic body delayed appointing special officers whose job it would be to check illegal constructions across the city.
Finally, on the day that the four-storeyed Mazgaon building collapsed – presumably the result of an illegal alteration – the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation approved the filling of 19 of total 27 vacant posts for these special officers.
This move has raised eyebrows, and many senior civic officials admit the “surprise” decision came on September 27 while rescue operations were on.
“We were surprised at the urgency of this meeting at a time when the collapse had just occurred and all attention should have been on rescue operations,” said a senior official.
The meeting was chaired by additional municipal commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar, who has come under fire as she is in charge of both the markets and planning and design (P&D) departments, which were responsible for the delays in repairing the residential building. It’s a coincidence that this meeting happened on the same day as the collapse. The meeting was planned in advance,” she said.
The BMC had taken the decision in April to appoint designated officers (DOs) who would be entirely responsible for tackling illegal constructions in their area.
A DO is supposed to be in charge of three corporator wards and also the final authority on preventing illegal structures from coming up and acting against those that are there.
Unlike the current arrangement, where the assistant engineer of the building and factory department reports to the ward’s assistant commissioner, DOs will report to the deputy municipal commissioner in charge of removal of encroachments.
“We had been demanding this for four months, but various departments had kept dillydallying,” said an official from the removal of encroachments department.
Of the total 64 DOs needed, 37 had been appointed previously. The BMC will now promote 19 junior engineers to assistant engineers.
Insiders said many officers, worried about pressure, have refused to take up these posts.