In the wake of the Lucky Compound building collapse and subsequent civic action, arch political rivals Jitendra Awhad (NCP) and Eknath Shinde (Shiv Sena) had shared a dais in April with a common refrain, “Stop the demolition of illegal buildings in Mumbra, without providing alternate accommodation to occupants.”
The notion had support from other parties too who, to make their point, shut Thane down for a day and damaged public property. The netas obviously had their vote bank in mind, which is perhaps why they failed to see the writing on the derelict walls of Smruti building.
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Had political parties supported Thane Municipal Corporation’s efforts to vacate the shaky structures in the area, ten lives -- lost yesterday -- could have been saved.
Not surprisingly, when
MiD DAY asked Awhad and Shinde -- who had led the bandh -- who should be held responsible for the deaths, both failed to name themselves.
“It was a 40-year-old structure. I don’t know who to hold responsible for the collapse,” said Awhad.
Shinde, on the other hand, was prompt to blame the government and the chief minister. “The government is answerable for the building collapse and the death of the people,” he opined.
However, when this newspaper pointed out that they were the ones opposing the corporation’s move of felling illegal and dilapidated buildings in April and had called for a bandh, Awhad said, “It was not an individual’s decision, but a stand taken by all parties to organise a bandh. In addition, I never came across a single notice with regard to this particular building.”
Shinde put a different spin on the matter. “We opposed only because the government should have given alternate accommodation to the residents of these building first and then got them evacuated. Where would so many people go if the structures are vacated without allocating them a place to stay?” he questioned.
Meanwhile, Awhad claims he has given the state government an ultimatum of 72 hours to pass the proposal of cluster redevelopment for Mumbra, or the area residents would usurp government homes.
Shinde also said the same thing. “If the government doesn’t ratify cluster redevelopment for Mumbra, the residents would take to the streets and homes belonging to the government shall be occupied.”
Shinde is the Thane district head for Shiv Sena, while Awhad was recently promoted as the working president of NCP in the state.
When asked whether politicians’ interference in April cost lives, Thane municipal commissioner (in-charge) Shyam Sundar Patil preferred using these words: “We had asked every building in Mumbra to get a structural audit done in April. The structure in question had been constructed when Mumbra was under Gram Sabha. I have asked for the papers and only afterwards can it be ascertained whether the building was legally constructed or not. This structure was not a part of the dilapidated building list.”