9 killed as part of Kolkata building collapses, Oppn targets TMC govt | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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9 killed as part of Kolkata building collapses, Oppn targets TMC govt

By, Kolkata
Mar 19, 2024 04:19 AM IST

The government announced a compensation of ₹5 lakh each for the families of the diseased and ₹1 lakh each for the injured

At least nine people were killed and around 20 injured when part of an under-construction five-storey building collapsed on an adjacent slum around 12.10am on Monday in the Garden Reach area of Kolkata.

Nine people dead as a five-storey under construction building collapsed on the adjacent slum at Azhar Molla Bagan at Garden Reach in Kolkata on Monday. (HT Photo)
Nine people dead as a five-storey under construction building collapsed on the adjacent slum at Azhar Molla Bagan at Garden Reach in Kolkata on Monday. (HT Photo)

Most of the victims died in hospital hours after they were rescued from under the debris.

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Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is recuperating from a head injury she suffered due to a fall at her home last week, visited Garden Reach on Monday morning and met the injured at SSKM hospital in Bhowanipore.

The construction was illegal, Banerjee said, amid claims by local residents that a pond was filled up to start the construction around a year ago.

“I offer my condolences to the affected families. I was told by the mayor that the building was built illegally. The administration will take appropriate action against those who are responsible. The government stands by the affected families,” Banerjee said at Garden Reach.

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The congested area, inhabited mostly by members of the Muslim community, is in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s (KMC) civic ward No 134, which is part of the Kolkata Port assembly constituency held by the city mayor and urban development minister Firhad Hakim since 2011.

The government announced a compensation of 5 lakh each for the families of the diseased and 1 lakh each for the injured, Hakim said. Among the deceased, two women were identified as Hasina Begum, 55, and Shama Begum, 44. Among the men who died, five were aged between 18 and 35.

Muhammad Wasim, the man who allegedly built the building, was arrested on the charges of criminal negligence, murder and attempt to murder on Monday afternoon, police said.

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Municipality officials said they served show-cause notices to three engineers from the building department for dereliction of duty.

With Lok Sabha elections around the corner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), targeted the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government, saying illegal construction is rampant in Kolkata because of corruption.

“Real estate promoters pay bribe at square feet rate to TMC leaders,” BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said. “What more can you expect in such a scenario?”

TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee refuted the charges saying BJP is politicising a tragedy.

“Let us express our sympathy for the victims instead of politicising the issue. Politics can wait,” he said.

The house collapsed after midnight when most of the slum dwellers were either asleep or having dinner. Kolkata police commissioner Vineet Goyal rushed to the spot around 1.40am.

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The slum dwellers alleged before the media that the building was being constructed illegally because KMC rules do not allow five-storey structures on narrow lanes. The lane leading to the construction site is 3ft wide, they alleged and pointed at several similar buildings in the neighbourhood.

“The road in front of a five-storey building must be at least 20ft wide according to rules. For three-storey buildings, the width of the road must be at least 12ft,” a KMC official said on condition of anonymity, adding that the builder was denied permission to construct the building.

Admitting that the construction was carried out beyond the limits set by plans that are sanctioned, the mayor alleged that such practices started during the erstwhile Left Front era. “The building did not have a sanctioned plan. You cannot have such a tall building in front of a narrow lane. These practices started during the Left Front rule when people had to run from pillar to post to get a building plan sanctioned,” Hakim told the media.

CPI(M) state secretary Md Selim, who also visited the spot, refuted the charges. “The mayor is trying to cover up massive corruption,” he said. “This construction started recently. Many such buildings have come up since 2011 when TMC came to power.”

Accused by local residents and opposition parties of patronising real estate businesses, the local TMC councillor, Iqbal Shams, claimed he had no knowledge about the building that collapsed. “Law will take its own course. I had no idea that such construction was on. It is not my job to check building plans,” he said.

Defending the councillor, the mayor said, “It is the job of KMC officials to check if buildings are being built according to rules or not.”

Muhammad Shamim, one of the slumdwellers, told reporters that local people were afraid of raising voices against such illegal constructions.

“These promoters are well connected. Anyone who lodges an official complaint can be shot,” he said.

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