The collapse of a one storey building at Bhivandi in Mumbai on Thursday which claimed three lives has exposed the menace of unauthorised alterations.
The Bhiwandi structure came up in 2006, and after seven years, another floor was being added, which is alleged to have caused the incident.
Activists say the nexus between builders, state officials and politicians is wreaking havoc.
“They are playing with the lives of people. Such activity should be dealt with with an iron hand,” said activist Gaurang Vora.
RTI activist Irfan Khan blamed the indifference of the civic staff and said in several cases that he complained against such additions, construction started again after demolition by the civic authorities.
The modus operandi is that the builder constructs the floors permitted and allows people to occupy them. After some time, he starts adding additional ones on the sly, said Khan.
Sachin Ahir, state minister for housing, said the state is serious about tackling the problem.
“We have incorporated several provisions wherein the concerned civic and police officer can be suspended for illegal constructions,” said Ahir.
He said that state is also looking to making structural audits compulsory.
Survivors said the Bhiwandi building collapsed suddenly and there was no time to escape. “We were trapped for over 30-45 minutes.
Then I spotted light coming in, and a few others workers and I managed to escape from the opening in the front of the building,” said Mohammed Israil, 32, a labourer.
“My cousin is still trapped in the debris,” he said.
Shrikanth Kamble, 31, was rescued after seven hours.
“I was on the upper floor, and was stuck under a huge slab. At about 7am, I sensed fire personnel on top of the debris and managed to come out with their help,” he said.