The police and the MCD knew that illegal construction was on in the 150-year-old building that collapsed in Old Delhi’s Chandni Mahal on Tuesday and that it posed a risk to the residents.
With two more persons succumbing to their injuries on Wednesday, the death toll rose to seven. Twenty-three people have been injured.
Had the Delhi Police and Municipal Corporation of Delhi acted in time, the tragedy could have been averted. In fact two days before the collapse, the police wrote to the civic body, informing it about the illegal construction.
The work had left the foundations of the four-storey building weak and it crumbled.
“We were informed by the locals about the illegal construction/repair work going on in the building,” said a senior police officer, who didn’t wish to be named.
The police alerted the civic body authorities, who wrote back requesting them to stop the construction.
“We told the police that the owner was illegally carrying out digging work but police didn’t react,” said Krishna Kumar, deputy commissioner (city zone).
“There was no specific instruction or direction in the communication received by us,” said joint commissioner of police (northern range) Sudhir Yadav.
It was just a copy of the letter given to the owner on September 16 and police couldn’t have acted on it, the officer said. Still on September 25, the police went to the spot, told the contractor and the owner not to stop the work. "Police's role was limited in the case," Yadav said.
"We all know that both the MCD and police support illegal constructions. They might no give permission but they never stop anyone either," said Salim Ashraf, who lives in a house opposite to the collapsed building.