Four children, including a brother-sister duo, lost their lives after a newly built wall on the fifth storey of an under-construction building fell on them in south Delhi's Chattarpur Extension area on Sunday.
Block D in Suman Colony, where the incident took place, is an unauthorised colony.
Property owner Baldev Singh and builder Sandeep Saini were illegally constructing the fifth storey. While police have arrested Saini, they said they are going to nab Singh soon. Mohammad Salim, the contractor has also been held.
A case under sections 288 (negligent conduct with respect to pulling down or repairing buildings) and 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC has been registered against Singh and Saini.
Police said the kids were playing carrom at 11.30 am at an adjoining empty plot of the same property when a 10 by 5 feet wall fell on them from a height of more than 50 feet.
All the four children - Gaurav (12), his sister Divya (11), Monu (10) and Nitin (10) - were buried under the debris. While Gaurav died on the spot, the others were rushed to Safdarjung Hospital, where the doctors pronounced them dead on arrival.
The children lived with their family members in their one-room rented accommodations, built a decade ago by Baldev Singh on his agricultural land. There are 11 such rooms on the plot.
Meenakshi Sharma, mother of Gaurav and Divya, said she was in the bathroom when she heard a loud noise. "I rushed out of the bathroom and found my son and daughter and others trapped under the bricks. We cleared the rubble and I immediately took
Divya to the hospital. They killed my children," said Sharma, whose husband Dharampal alias Raju works as a waiter in a hotel.
Alleging connivance of beat constables of the area with Singh and Sanini, Ajay Kumar, the pradhan (headman) of Chattarpur Extension area, said, "The construction work started around two months back and despite carrying out visible illegal construction, police took no action nor made any effort to stop it."
Chhaya Sharma, Deputy Commissioner of Police (south), said, "Required actions were taken as soon as the construction work started. We had made three daily dairy (DD) entries in that regard and construction work was stopped three times by us. The civic agency concerned was duly informed and they issued a restraining order to the owner of the plot on February 1."
'Portions were to come down on Feb 29'
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has once again come under criticism for its inability to curb illegal construction in the city.
According to Delhi's building byelaws, construction is allowed only till the third floor. However, the Chattarpur building that collapsed on Sunday, already had a fourth floor and an additional fifth floor was being constructed.
While officials of MCD's building department say that illegal portions of the building, which is located in an unauthorised colony, were scheduled to be demolished on February 29, there are no explanations why action was not taken on the fourth floor, which too was illegal.
“Police had been informed that the unauthorised portion of the building will be demolished in a drive to be held on (February) 29,” said an official of building department on condition of anonymity.
The building was first added to the demolition list in January but action was not taken due to some problems.
The civic body has now ordered a probe into the incident. A report is expected to be submitted in 10 days, said leader of the MCD House Subhash Arya. He said such incidents occur mostly in unauthorised colonies as they do not have approved plans.
The MCD had ordered probes into the collapses at Lalita Park, Chandni Mahal and Uttam Nagar but no report has been tabled so far.
After the Lalita Park and Chandni Mahal incidents, surveys of dangerous buildings were ordered and a few buildings were identified and given notices. But the MCD is still unable to curb illegal construction.
According to works committee chairman Jagdish Mamgain, mushrooming of illegal construction suggests a nexus between officials of MCD and the police. “When illegal construction happens, the police and the junior engineers can see the violation happening right in front of their eyes but they do not take action,” Mamgain said.
He said that MCD takes demolition and sealing action against 10,000 cases of unauthorised constructions in the city. “The actual number of unauthorised constructions is much more," he added.
Their decision to play 'inside' proved fatal
The four schoolchildren, who died in a wall collapse on Sunday, usually never played behind the under construction building.
More than 25 children stay in the cluster of 11 single-room accommodations constructed in the vicinity of the under construction building. Expect for the four victims, all other children were playing in nearby areas.
Barely 10 minutes before the wall crushed them, brother-sister duo Gaurav and Divya had talked to their mother Meenakshi Sharma. She had told them to finish their game of carom fast and have lunch.
"Gaurav brought the carrom board in the open area and asked Nitin and Monu to join him and his sister. I saw them playing happily while I was entering the bathroom and had asked them to finish their game fast," said an inconsolable Meenakshi.
While Gaurav studied in Class VI at Acharya Tulsi Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, his sister Divya was a Class III student in a private school. Monu studied in a government school, while Nitin was a student in a private school. Nitin's father Arvind Tyagi is a DTC driver and Monu's father drives an auto rickshaw.