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Mumbra building collapse: Deputy civic chief axed

Confronted by an opposition, and even some members of the ruling coalition, on the offensive, the chief minister opted for the tried-and-tested yesterday making a few heads roll. As the critical voices reached fever pitch in the state legislature over the issue of the building-collapse calamity in Mumbra, Prithviraj Chavan announced the sacking of the deputy commissioner of Thane Municipal Corporation and the area senior police inspector.

Photos: Man-made mayhem shocks Mumbra

Earlier, NCP member Nawab Malik made stinging remarks about the attitude of the local police, and even alleged that the senior PI was charging Rs 50,000 for each room constructed illegally. Leader of opposition Eknath Khadse and BJP member Sudhir Mungantiwar too supported him and claimed that the CM was trying to shield other officers at fault.

Photos: Similar disasters that took place in Mumbai

Both houses of the legislature came down heavily on the proliferation of illegal constructions in Mumbra and adjacent areas. The assembly debated Thursday’s tragedy, criticising the Thane civic body and negligence of its functionaries.

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Replying to the debate, the CM announced Rs 2 lakh for the kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 for every person injured. His contention that the title of the land on which the ill-fated structure was built could not be traced, received flak from the treasury as well as the opposition benches. He admitted that the issue of unauthorised constructions was grave and needs serious attention.

Even after enacting a legislation in March 2012 that enables filing of an offence against the designated authority of the civic body who is responsible for reining in illegal construction, an effective system is yet to be established. The government will work on this, the CM assured. He also informed the house that at present 1,049 ‘dangerous’ and 57 ‘most-dangerous’ buildings exist in Thane. It has become difficult to raze these as over 88,000 people reside in them.

The government is mulling a proposal to allow cluster development of these constructions to save lives of the denizens. Soon a bill will be introduced in the state legislature to make necessary modifications in the development control (DC) rules, announced Chavan. A special authority for implementation of the cluster development schemes in Mumbai Metropolitan Region will also be created for the cause, he added.

Though the government is willing to allow creation of special police stations with deputation of cops to preclude encroachment and illegal construction, civic bodies are reluctant to bear the cost. For instance, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has declined to pay in advance the salaries of 1,128 policemen sanctioned for the job, the CM told the assembly.

Leader of opposition Eknath Khadse expressed unhappiness over Chavan’s response and maintained that there was lack of will on part of the government to punish the culprits who allowed illegal constructions in Mumbra. The CM should also suspend representatives who provided water, electricity etc for the building and the senior police officials who turned a blind eye towards this, the BJP leader demanded. He also sought stringent provisions of MCOCA to be applied against them. Khadse expressed surprise over the CM’s statement that the government was still tracing the land records of the site.

More action to come
Chavan also promised that apart from the civic and police officials, the government would take stern action against representatives of forest and tribal development department if it was proved that they had failed to protect the land from illegal construction.

Rs 2 lakh
The amount promised by the CM for the kin of the dead

Rs 50K
The amount promised by the CM for those injured in the collapse

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