Mumbra building collapse: Anti-demolition netas now evade responsibility

Jun 22, 2013, 08:38 IST | Varun Singh

When MiD DAY spoke to the politicos who had shut Thane down in April opposing the local civic body's action against illegal buildings, they, predictably, chose to blame the government

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.” 

Jitendra Awhad and Eknath Shinde
 Wooing the votebank: Jitendra Awhad (left) and Eknath Shinde (right) at the spot of the building collapse yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande

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.

Crashed: A three-storey structure near the Mumbra railway station that collapsed at 2.30 am yesterday claimed 10 lives and injured more than 14. Pics/Sameer Markande

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.

‘Collective decision’
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.

Occupy movement
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.

Paper chase
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.”

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