One room grew to 7-storey building
The seven-storey building that collapsed like a pack of cards on Monday started out as a single 12-by-10-foot room. For almost 40 years, authorities systematically looked away, allegedly paid off by builder Amritpal Singh Sachdeva, who was arrested late on Tuesday. Neelam Pandey reports. Eroded from beneath | Fortune is misfortune for survivors | Rules often flouteddelhi Updated: Nov 17, 2010 01:31 IST
The seven-storey building that collapsed like a pack of cards on Monday, killing 67 and injuring 80, started out as a single 12-by-10-foot room.
For almost 40 years, authorities systematically looked away, allegedly paid off by builder Amritpal Singh Sachdeva, who was arrested late on Tuesday.
Legally, Sachdeva could have constructed only three floors (ground, first and second) but by allegedly bribing MCD officials he was able to construct as many as seven floors.
The 23-metre long illegal building came up in the conges-ted by-lanes of Lalita Park without being served a single notice from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). The civic agency simply preferred to overlook the glaring irregularities. Not only this, the owner had not even bothered to get a building plan sanctioned, which is mandatory before construction begins.
"The building owner has not been served any notice by us. But it is illegal, as seven floors are not allowed," said Yogender Chandolia, chairman of the MCD standing committee.
According to the Delhi Police, Sachdeva managed to cram in two more mezzanine floors in the five-storey building that had close to 355 persons residing in it. The original 40-yard plot was extended by another 60 yards through encroachment.
The story of Lalita Park is not unique. In every part of the city, buildings constructed on the foundation of bribes are teetering dangerously, putting lakhs more lives in danger. "The nexus between builders, MCD officials and politicians is such that it is much easier to get things done through the illegal way," said Arvind Kejriwal, a Right to Information activist. "Corrupt MCD officials are simply not afraid, as they know no action will be taken against them."
"MCD officials who allow such illegal construction to flourish are simply not afraid of anyone as they know no action will be taken against them," Kejriwal added.
Red tape is also one of the major reasons for people choosing to go the illegal way.
"If people don't pay they are forced to make rounds of MCD offices to get their building plan approved. Hence, it becomes easier to simply pay them and construct additional floors too," said a member of the monitoring committee constituted by the court, requesting anonymity.
Though 67 lives were lost due to negligence of the owner and the civic authorities, Sachdeva may be given only two years imprisonment at the most.
The Delhi Police have, in the last 39 years, arrested Amritpal Singh Sachdeva (65) for 21 different charges ranging from pick-pocketing, rioting, and Arms Act.
They even tagged him and his brothers as Bad Characters (BCs) of the area.
But the police was never able to arrest him on a single charge related to structural irregularity.