It is now or never for the Thane Municipal Commissioner and higher authorities to step in and take a hard look at all the illegal construction on in the vicinity where a building collapsed, resulting in loss of life and injury.

On Thursday evening, an under-construction building in the Mumbra area of Thane collapsed, killing more than 40 people (we’re still counting) and leaving many injured. Rescue operations are likely to continue over the weekend as people, many of them children were trapped under the debris. Reports stated numerous difficulties, right from arriving at the spot, to actually accessing the collapsed building and helping find those trapped. There have been many such building collapses in the city, especially during the monsoons.

What is alarming about this particular incident is that the collapse was caused by illegal construction. What is more reprehensible is the fact that several other buildings in the vicinity are said to have been illegally constructed or have illegal floors.

Why were people given the go-ahead to construct structures? Was nobody looking, or were they deliberately oblivious to the illegal activities?

When buildings are already constructed, then razing them, even if they are illegal, is not easy. There is a human factor involved: people have started living there and it is difficult to uproot them. In a city like Mumbai, people continue to cling to the most dangerous accommodation, simply because there is no other option.

Will it take many more collapses and greater loss of life for authorities to move hard and fast on illegal buildings, not just in Mumbra but at other places in the city too?