While the slum colony in Bandra East is badly shaken by the building collapse yesterday, one can only hope that it also came as a hard jolt to the civic authorities, who could have prevented the tragedy from ever happening.
Anyone who has walked past the Behrampada slums has witnessed how the rooms are stacked on top of each other in illegal buildings that tower over four or five storeys — like a stack of pancakes, or a house of cards. Yesterday, one of these buildings came crashing down and wiped out the lives of six young children. Rescue efforts were still on into the second day after the mishap.
The question we should be asking at this point is, why were these shanties allowed to grow in violation of all norms in the first place? Which palms have been greased? Why was the slum cluster allowed to grow in such a precarious manner? Did local authorities conveniently turn a blind eye because the slums are a crucial vote bank?
This is not to say 'we told you so', but as early as June, this paper had reported and, in fact, sounded a note of caution over these illegal 'high-rises' that were literally kissing the Bandra skywalk. The BMC had ordered the demolition of the shanties after the report. No doubt, the demolition drive will gain further traction after this tragedy. However, this will merely be a reactionary measure.
Looking ahead, we will now have to see whether this collapse acts as a trigger for action on these 'high-rises' once and for all. Politicians shielding these law-breakers because they are a vote bank need to be booked themselves. Property and space, being at such a premium in this city, this fight will require an iron will and tremendous support from different sections in the city. It's seems very late now, but like they say, better late than never.