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Mumbai building collapse: 17 dead in Ghatkopar tragedy, illegal repairs have killed 97 in 10 years

If the BMC notices an illegal alteration or unauthorized construction in your building, the most it can do is issue a notice under the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning (MRTP) Act

mumbai Updated: Jul 26, 2017 09:30 IST
Sanjana Bhalerao
Sanjana Bhalerao
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Mumbai building collapse,Ghatkopar tragedy
The rescue work at Siddhi Sai was on on Wednesday morning.(SATYBRATA TRIPATHY/HT)

Ninety-seven people have died and scores have been injured in three building collapses caused by illegal renovations in the past decade. In this time, neither the state government nor the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has done much to prevent such tragedies or to punish offenders. This is because no mechanism exists to prevent illegal alterations on private property or to impose harsh punishments on offenders.

If the BMC notices an illegal alteration or unauthorized construction in your building, the most it can do is issue a notice under the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning (MRTP) Act. If the building does collapse, and illegal alterations or negligence are suspected to be the cause, the police can arrest and charge those responsible under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code – causing death by negligence. It carries a sentence of up to two years, a fine, or both. However, no-one has been so punished in the past 10 years.

Legislator Amin Patel said, “As of now, there is stern punishment for violating the MRTP Act by illegally altering a structure. But if someone breaks a pillar and the building collapses, killing people, it should be treated as a murder. It is time to change the outdated legal provisions.”

Tuesday’s building collapse in Ghatkopar has so far claimed seven lives and left nine people injured. The building wasn’t catergorised as dilapidated or dangerous by the BMC in its pre-monsoon survey. Local residents blamed “unauthorized” renovations by the owner of a nursing home on the ground floor for the collapse.

They alleged that a load-bearing pillar of the building was tampered with, causing the building to tilt and then fall. An official in the BMC’s anti-encroachment department said that they hadn’t received complaints about any illegal construction there.

Under the Development Control Rules, citizens must get permission from the BMC to build cabins, construct or demolish walls, or otherwise alter structures. Plastering, tiling and painting can be done without the BMCs permission. However, the rules are violated frequently. A BMC official, who did not wish to be named, said, “We act once we get complaints about illegal alterations or across them during site inspection. Other than that we have no mechanism to keep tabs on every illegal alteration that takes place.”

After a building in Dockyard collapse in 2013, killing 61 people, the BMC appointed a committee to look into the matter. The committee said that the BMC needed to ensure that good-quality raw materials were used in construction and keep tabs on projects to prevent illegal alterations. It also said that residents must obtain and compile architectural drawings of all the stages of construction and all structural audit reports.

In 2007, 26 people died when a building in Borivali collapsed. A case was registered against a jeweler on the ground floor who had allegedly made structural modifications. Six years later, a building in Mahim collapsed because of unauthorised structural changes, killing 10 people.

First Published: Jul 26, 2017 09:30 IST