The Kalyan-Dombivli municipal commissioner’s admission to this newspaper that there are 78,000 illegal buildings in his jurisdiction should have been a shocker but it is hardly surprising in the face of the harsh reality.
What is also not surprising, given the extensive corruption in local civic bodies, is the brazenness with which officials keep their jobs despite so many deaths. In the Mumbra building collapse last week, more than 70 perished, many of them children.
Yet, only the builders have been arrested. Why are the civic officials, who gave their nod to erect the buildings with none of the permissions or quality checks in place, still in office? One deputy municipal commissioner has been held on charges of graft after a stash of Rs 5 lakh was found in his house.
Even after such a massive manmade calamity, the most that the state chief secretary did was to have a video-conference with civic chiefs. This lackadaisical attitude to human lives may be typical of India, but it needs to stop.
The KDMC commissioner has filed FIRs against 160 builders. But in a jurisdiction that has 78,000 illegal buildings, 160 is a drop in the ocean. Even if the municipal corporation begins demolitions, where is the plan to rehabilitate the lakhs of people inhabiting them. Haphazard, indiscriminate development has been the hallmark of India’s urban growth. Navi Mumbai, for instance, is a classic example. Mumbai is not too far away. In fact, Pune is also seeing similar trends.
It is time local and state governments woke up. More vitally, buyers should have the common sense to decline offers in such buildings. After all, you cannot put a price on life.