'He died trying to pull a girl from the rubble'

20-year-old Sagar Gardas, the sole bread earner of his family, fell under the collapsed building in Bhiwandi, while trying to rescue another victim; residents of the decrepit adjoining building have been shifted to a nearby school

When 20-year-old Sagar Gardas stepped out to collect his wages and gifts for his family members, his parents and sisters bid him goodbye with hearts full of hope for a joyous Diwali celebration.

tragic end: A three-storey building in Gautam Compound, Navi Basti, Bhiwandi, which collapsed on Tuesday evening. Sagar Gardas, one of the victims who was trapped under the debris

They had no clue that he would never return home again. Sagar was one of the eight victims who fell under the three-storey building in Gautam Compound, Navi Basti, Bhiwandi, when it collapsed on Tuesday evening. He was trying to rescue a little girl who was trapped under the debris.

A valiant death
Sagar, a labourer in a local power loom unit, earned a monthly salary of Rs 5,000. His father Srinivas (40) said, "We lost our only son, who was the sole bread earner of the family.
He was very happy because he was going to collect his salary from his employer, and planned to celebrate Diwali with the money. But he was unlucky. Just as he was walking past the building, it caved in. He heard screams, and rushed to the spot, only to notice a little girl's hand jutting out of the debris.

He tried to rescue her, but just as he was pulling her out, the remaining part of building collapsed on him. Last morning, the police accompanied me to Indira Gandhi hospital so I could identify his body. I recognised him from his clothes, though I couldn't summon up the strength to look at his face.

His mother is still in a state of shock, and has not spoken since the incident. We have lost our beloved son on the auspicious occasion of Diwali."

Sagar's sister Sapna (12) said, "We had asked our brother to get us Diwali gifts, but he never came back. He was our only brother, and we loved him very much."

Sagar is also survived by his eight-year-old sister Pooja. Sagar's friend Ramdas said, "Sagar was happy that he was going to be paid, as he wanted to buy gifts for his sisters. He lost his life trying to save someone else."
The collapse of the building has dispossessed the 18 families residing in the adjoining building as well.

When cracks developed in the building, after the neighbouring building caved in, the residents hurriedly shifted to a nearby Urdu-medium school. One such man was Qasim Afzal Shaikh, who had booked a flat in the building that very day.

He said, "On Tuesday morning, I paid Rs 15,000 for the registration of my apartment. At 5.30 pm in the evening, I had nothing left in my hands. We were asked to evacuate the building. I owned my new home for a mere three hours. I feel hopeless about the future of my kids."

Qasimbi, another dispossessed resident, said, "On Tuesday evening, we were surprised when we heard people screaming in the adjacent building. We ran for our lives. But now we are left homeless - we don't have clothes to wear, and our belongings are still inside the building."

Mohammad Sabir, a resident said, "A few days ago, we complained to the builder that our building needed to be repaired. Asbestos sheets on the terrace had broken. But all our complaints fell on deaf ears."

A policeman at the site said, "Residents of the two buildings both of which were constructed on land owned by Jagdish Pandam were sent a notice in March, informing them that the premises were to be vacated as they had been illegally constructed. But the residents now claim that they received no such notice from the Bhiwandi Nizampura Municipal Corporation.

The building was constructed in 2007 by landowner Jagdish Pandam and local corporator Naseer Sayyed.
A case has been registered against them at Kumbharwada police station in Bhiwandi.

The rescue operation for survivors went on till the early hours yesterday. The victims were shifted to Indira Gandhi hospital in Bhiwandi, and the Thane Civil Hospital.

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