Hussaini Manzil in Bhindi Bazar collapsed on August 31
Hussaini Manzil in Bhindi Bazar collapsed on August 31

Ever since the collapse of Bhendi Bazar's Hussaini Manzil on August 31, its debris has become a bone of contention. Kin of the deceased have alleged that their family members' documents and valuables continue to remain buried in the rubble, and neither the police nor any other agency have bothered to make sure that the items aren't lost or stolen.

Anwar Husain Jarrar, who lost his younger brother Jafar, 45, his wife Reshma, 38, and their two children Zama, 17, and Fatima, 13, in the crash, has written to the senior inspector of JJ Marg police, marking copies of the letter to the Chief Minister, BMC commissioner, commissioner of police, and CEOs of MHADA and the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), stating that the debris has been lying unguarded on footpaths, and valuables, including documents like Aadhaar card and passport, of his relatives have been found strewn about, being handled by labourers hired by a private contractor to clear the debris.

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From the rubble
In his letter dated September 7 (of which mid-day has a copy), Anwar wrote, "The debris was shifted to a footpath of Governor Garden (opposite Akbar Peerbhoy College). It was unmanned… neither the police nor any supervisor from BMC or SBUT was present. To top that, it's been kept uncovered, with important documents and valuables lying unprotected amid the steel and concrete debris."

Anwar said his inquiries revealed that on September 1, the SBUT handed over the contract of clearing the debris to Global Demolisher without clearance from the police or the BMC.

"On September 5, I was told that the debris from opposite Akbar Peerbhoy college was being cleared. I went to the site and was told that SBUT had given them permission to segregate and clear the debris, and there were a few private guards. I spotted a plastic bag and was surprised to find the passports of the family, besides some foreign currency and other belongings of Jafar," he said.

"I was aghast to find such important documents kept in the open so carelessly. The police are supposed to make a record of everything found in the debris, and then, keep the mudhemal in their custody.

"Only after I objected and said the work shouldn't continue until senior officials from SBUT-appointed contractor arrived at the site, a team from JJ Marg police station, headed by Senior PI Shirish Gaikwad, arrived and ordered to stop the work. All valuables recovered were then handed over to the police."

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Authorities react
Gaikwad, however, refuted Anwar's allegation, saying that in spite of Ganpati bandobast he had deployed two constables to guard the debris. "Now that bandobast duty is over, I will see to it that all claimants of the property are called to the spot, so that we can begin sorting the items," he added.

When asked if any guidelines were followed while disposing of the debris, Mahesh Narvekar, chief officer at civic body's Disaster Management Unit, replied in the negative and said the unit's role was to rescue those trapped and move the debris from the crash spot. "After the rescue is over, it is the local ward office and solid waste management department that clear the debris," he added.

J S Ghegadmal, assistant commissioner of C ward, however, said it was the responsibility of the owner (in this case SBUT) to segregate and dispose of the debris.

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Building collapse