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Malad building collapse: Blame game begins

As 12 people, including eight children, died after a ground-plus-three structure collapsed on an adjoining building in Malwani area of Malad on Wednesday night, the blame game and tussle over jurisdiction began
By Swapnil Rawal, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JUN 11, 2021 12:52 AM IST

As 12 people, including eight children, died after a ground-plus-three structure collapsed on an adjoining building in Malwani area of Malad on Wednesday night, the blame game and tussle over jurisdiction began.

The illegal structure that collapsed was built on the district collector’s land. The Bharatiya Janata Party, however, said the Shiv Sena-controlled Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) cannot escape the blame.

The search and rescue operations that began around midnight on Wednesday ended on Thursday, amid a steady trickle of political leaders and minister. Malwani, one of the city’s most densely populated localities, falls in the Assembly constituency of Congress minister Aslam Shaikh, who is also Mumbai city’s guardian minister.

While Shaikh was the first to visit the spot in the night, BJP’s Pravin Darekar, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and minister Nawab Malik, Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar and others reached in the morning. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and suburban guardian minister Aaditya Thackeray did not visit the spot, but they went to Shatabdi Hospital in Kandivali East to meet the injured.

“The place where the incident has happened is the collector’s land. There was permission to construct up to ground floor, but three floors were built,” Pednekar said. Malik said, “These buildings did not have any structural design.”

“North Mumbai Lok Sabha MP Gopal Shetty had written to the administration that such three-four floor structures have come up and warned they could collapse. The government and its administration did not take it seriously,” said Darekar, adding, “Was any permission given for construction? I demand that deputy collector, BMC officials should be booked for culpable homicide and suspended.” BJP legislator and party spokesperson Atul Bhatkhalkar said, “How can the BMC say it is not their responsibility?”

The mayor said there should be collective responsibility. “This construction hasn’t come up in the past four years. These are 10-15-year-old buildings. The MP can’t merely write a letter and escape the responsibility. Everybody’s responsible, including us (BMC),” she said.

Shetty had written to Aaditya Thackeray and Aslam Shaikh in August 2020 in the wake of collapse of a two-floor building in Malwani after a spell of heavy rain in July 2020. In the letter, a copy of which is with HT, Shetty said the state must give “immediate attention” to the people residing in such structures. “This is not the first time a house of 2-3 floors has collapsed in Malvanl Basti/Slums and innocent people lost their lives… The Maharashtra Government should get into action and take quick remedial steps and create and formulate a concrete development plan for entire Malvani Basti. There are several houses/slums in Malvanl Basti which are 2-3 floors and need immediate attention and people residing are at immense risk,” the letter said, a copy of which was also marked to Milind Borikar, collector, Mumbai suburban district.

Shaikh, however, denied any knowledge of a letter from Shetty. “I don’t know about any letter written by the MP; he was an MP earlier as well and his [party’s] government was there in the previous five years. I am unaware of any correspondence from him,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government has announced 5 lakh ex-gratia for the family of deceased and 50,000 for those who were injured in the collapse. Thackeray, in a statement, also said that the cost of the treatment for the injured will be covered by the state government.

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