Mumbai: BMC probe blames wind for ex Doordarshan anchor's death by tree collapse
Probe report gives clean chit to BMC in the incident of former Doordarshan anchor who died after an aged coconut tree fell on her. Husband, who alleges officials neglected complaints, set to take civic body to court
Would former Doordarshan anchor and yoga instructor Kanchan Nath have been alive today if the BMC hadn't refused to cut the tree that fell and crushed her? According to the civic officials, the answer is blowing in the wind. In an inquiry report, the civic body has shrugged off all responsibility for the tragedy, blaming the tree's collapse on a windstorm.
A CCTV grab shows the collapsed coconut tree that fell on Kanchan Nath while she was on her way home
Kanchan was walking home to Prawasi housing society in Chembur after a yoga session on July 20, when a coconut tree snapped mid-trunk and came crashing down on her. The heavy tree fell right on her head, knocking her out immediately. The 58-year-old died two days later at Sushrut Hospital.
Kanchan Nath with her son, Rajarshi, who plans to move court for justice
A CCTV camera had caught the entire incident, and the footage quickly went viral, sparking much outrage against the BMC. Kanchan was the third casualty of tree collapses this year, despite the corporation spending several crores on pruning trees. Public anger increased after it came to light that a local resident had warned the garden department that the tree was too heavy, repeatedly asking them cut it.
Kanchan Nath with her son Rajarshi
However, in a new report, the BMC has given a clean chit to its officials. The incident had taken place at 8 am, during a brief lull amid heavy rains. Civic body's report states: "The incident happened on July 20, when the wind speed was high, and the tree collapsed due to that."
The corporation further said there was no negligence on part of garden department officials.
However, as mid-day had reported before, the BMC had long known about the danger posed by the coconut tree. The tree stood in the compound of local resident Dinkar Pol, who had on February 17, requested the BMC to cut it down. He warned them that the tree had grown too large to be safe. The BMC report mentioned this as well.
The report added that after receiving the complaint, officials from the garden department had visited the site and noted that the tree had a 4-metre circumference and was about 40 metres tall, and its growth was natural. They further noted that there was no pest problem or disease in the tree, and hence, they deemed the tree safe.
However, officials decided that the tree was weighed down by branches and coconuts, so they gave permission to trim some of them. Pol went back to the BMC after 10 days, once again requesting the BMC to send someone to trim additional branches and coconuts. He had also paid trimming charges of Rs 1,380. The same day, a contractor had come and removed some branches and coconuts.
The BMC report stated that from that day till the day of the accident, no other complaints were received regarding the tree. On this basis, the civic authorities claimed, they had not been negligent.
Confirming the report, Jitendra Pardeshi, superintendent of gardens, said, "After the incident, we checked our records and asked staffers to make a report. It states that the tree collapsed due to the wind."
Lawsuit in the wind?
Kanchan's family is unhappy with the BMC report. Her son, Rajarshi Nath told mid-day, "We have been running from pillar to post, but have not got any justice. We will wait for a few days, and if we still do not get justice, we will move court."
When contacted, Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar said, "I am not aware of the report, but if the family members are not satisfied, they can meet me and I will definitely help them as per the law."
How the civic body investigates tree-fall mishaps
"First, we check the records to see if that particular tree has been trimmed or not. Then, we find out if its roots are intact. If these things are proper, we check the weather conditions, like wind velocity and rainfall, at the time of the incident, with the help of the Disaster Management department," said an official from BMC's garden department.
Height of the coconut tree that fell on the victim, as per BMC's report
Circumference of the culprit coconut tree, as mentioned in the report
Trimming charges owner of the plot on which the tree stood had paid BMC
Rs 32 cr
The total amount spent on tree trimming till July this year
Approximate number of trees in the city, as per civic body's data
Number of coconut trees, the most abundant species in the city