The 10 lives claimed by the Mahim building collapse will soon turn into mere statistics to be added to the endless list of casualties in building collapses. Every monsoon, a number of buildings collapse, and innocent lives are lost. Each year, BMC and MHADA compile a long list of dilapidated buildings that fall under their purview. Ironically, the Mahim building - as well the one in Borivli that was evacuated yesterday - came under no such lists. This is because none of these planning authorities exercise control over private buildings.
The need of the hour is an all-encompassing audit of all the structures in the city that have crossed a certain age. This needs to be conducted by the authorities on a regular basis. A fresh department comprising people with specialised knowlegde - structural engineers, architects, planning experts - could be created for the purpose. But let’s not leave it all on the bureaucrats. Residents associations should exercise more vigilance, and whistle blowers who expose irregularities in structures should be protected.
The biggest question that remains, however, is how these dilapidated or dangerous buildings should be vacated, and arrangements for rehabilitation. It has been observed that most people stay on, despite warnings, fearing that they will lose their homes forever. Many families in Pratiksha Nagar still await the news of their new homes. To remedy this problem, transit homes should be made more accessible and hospitable. Finally, the government should make sure that their buildings are reconstructed faster and without delay, so that residents of other dangerous buildings feel confident about evacuating their homes.