Disaster waiting to happen

Sep 29, 2011, 07:05 IST | Vatsala Shrangi

A day after two buildings collapsed in old Delhi claiming seven lives and injuring many others, MiD DAY found a 100-year-old structure  in the area with illegal construction on at the top

The more things change, the more they remain the same. A day after two buildings collapsed in old Delhi claiming seven lives and injuring more than 20 others, MiD DAY found a 100-year-old structure in nearby Sadar Bazar with illegal floors being added to it. Three other buildings of similar nature and on weak foundations are being constructed in the same row. The traders association of Sadar Bazar area has been protesting against these unauthorised activities as they can keel over at any moment.

Shaky grounds: Ongoing illegal construction at Bara Tutti Chowk, Sadar
Bazar on Wednesday. Pic/Subhash Barolia

The old Sadar Bazar market existing since the Mughal era has been a wholesale commercial space for the past many years. Traders claim many of these buildings have been identified as very-old and dangerous, yet construction is on without taking safety norms into consideration. All these buildings in the area come under the jurisdiction of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Sadar Paharganj (SP) Zone.

Men at work: The illegal construction has been covered up to avoid
scrutiny. Pic/Subhash Barolia

No bribe
MiD DAY had earlier reported about how the Federation of Sadar Bazar Trades Association (FESTA) was facing massive corruption from MCD and other departments. Traders had taken up the matter with Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit a few days ago. They say the CM had promised to take necessary action against all the officials. Traders have now refused to pay any bribe for licence renewal, renovation of shops and other work. "The building collapse incident must come as an eye-opener for the civic body to ensure implementation of safety norms for the construction of new buildings in this area, which is narrow and houses about 400 shops," said Pawan Kumar, president, Federation of Sadar Bazar Trades Association (FESTA). Building no. 64, partially under-construction above the State Bank of India (SBI), located at 12 Tooti Chowk is very old and cannot sustain any further construction, claim FESTA members.

Nothing official
Manohar Lal Kumar, chairman, FESTA said, "This building has been under construction for the past three months, and there is no way they could secure permission from the civic body for the same. I had officially complained repeatedly for the past two weeks that this building is dangerous and the construction must be stopped owing to security reasons." He also added that the assistant commissioner of Police (ACP), the district commissioner (DC) and the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) have visited the site and also discussed passing orders to immediately stop construction. Locals said the construction was stopped for two weeks, after few complaints were made about it, but has again started for the last three days.

Hidden agenda
The building in question looks rickety and the under-construction part has been covered up by builders to hide the fact. Meanwhile, according to MCD officials, the chief vigilance officer, who is in charge of looking into such issues, has not been appointed for the last one year, after the incident in Lalita Park took place in 2010, when a building had collapsed killing 71 people. Yogendra Chandolia, chairman, Standing Committee, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) said "These are dangerous buildings and there is no way permission could be sought for construction there. These are definitely unauthorised constructions. I have asked the DC of that zone to immediately order inquiry into the matter. Action will be taken against them and there will be no constructions from tomorrow."

Probe ordered
Municipal Commissioner, K S Mehra on Wednesday directed the Director of Vigilance to conduct an inquiry into the house collapse incident in Chandni Mahal.  "Now, taking into consideration the magnitude of the issue, MCD has entrusted the work of inquiry to the Director of Vigilance. Earlier, zonal commissioner had been entrusted for the enquiry,"   He has also directed him to inquire into the role of builder and MCD officials. Action will be taken against defaulting persons or the officials, said MCD.

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