The Municipal Corporation of Delhi's (MCD) political wing has shifted the onus of the Lalita Park collapse on the Delhi government. The civic agency that had suspended its officials for dereliction of duty soon after the incident reinstated them all in September 2011, claiming they had no role in the collapse.
"Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had handed over the colony to us in 1987, so majority of illegal construction had already taken place by then. We had suspended our officials then as there was a lot of pressure on us. But our staff had no role to play in the building collapse and hence all of them were reinstated," said Yogender Chandolia, chairman of MCD's Standing Committee.
A junior engineer, a licensing inspector and a house tax inspector were suspended in December last year after a vigilance inquiry found they should have detected the violations and prevented the mishap.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government-appointed inquiry commission headed by former high court judge justice Lokeshwar Prasad is likely to submit its report on November 21. Prasad is probing why the said building collapsed and has the mandate to fix responsibility and suggest ways so that similar tragedies are not repeated.
Justice Prasad committee has already been given two extensions. "We would only be able to comment on the issue after the report is in," said a senior official in the Delhi government.
On the other hand, the civic agency claims that property owners are still carrying out construction illegally and when the MCD squads try to take action they are opposed. "Illegal construction is still rampant and though we do book properties for carrying out illegal action, our staff is beaten up when they try to carry out demolition. Most of the basements in east Delhi areas are full of water, making the foundation weak. All the three agencies - Delhi government, DDA and MCD, need to work together," added Chandolia.
MCD might be making tall claims of taking action on illegal construction but figures have a different story to tell. While last year action was taken on 83 properties in Shahdara (south), this year it has gone up to 96 only.