On Thursday, 24-year-old Ashwini Satpute was crushed to death when a tree at a Lower Parel office complex came crashing on her. A day later, it has emerged that the accident could have been averted, and her life saved, had the trees on premises been pruned in time.
Under fire for the accident, civic officials insisted that they had allowed pruning of the trees on the office complex. In a letter dated June 26, the gardens department of the G-south ward had granted permission to cut and remove the overgrown branches of 19 trees, including the collapsed Bhendi tree inside the private industrial premises.
The letter, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times, was issued in response to an application sent by Marathon Next Gen Reality Ltd. on June 25, seeking permission to prune trees. "We inspected all the trees inside the premises on June 25 and listed 19 trees as vulnerable. We granted permission to the company to carry out work in their personal capacity," said assistant commissioner NV Pai. "Considering the condition the tree was in before its collapse, we doubt if it had ever been trimmed in the past three years."
However, a spokesperson for Marathon Group said the company had not received the permission. "We would like to clarify that we [had] sought permission to trim the trees on June 17 and June 25. However, we did not receive permission for the same," the company spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the victim's family has decided to wait for a week before taking any action. "We are planning to file a complaint of negligence against Marathon Next Gen and will demand compensation,” said Prashant Gaikwad, a relative of the victim. “At the moment, though, we are struggling to come to terms with the crisis," Gaikwad added.
Kamalshankar Yadav, superintendent of gardens, BMC, said private land owners were rather lax in making applications for pruning trees on their premises. “They complete the work in haste and clumsily dispose all fallen branches on the main road," Yadav said.