Rickety and ready to fall

Oct 02 2013, 01:44 IST
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SummaryGiven the lack of proper policies and clear procedures coupled with inaction by authorities, residents of Mumbais old and crumbling buildings face a constant threat to life, find Sharvari Patwa and Alison Saldanha

The Babu Genu Municipal Market building in Dockyard Road area came crashing down on Friday, claiming 61 lives and injuring 33. As many as 168 lives have been snuffed out in building collapses in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) this year.

Besides the age of buildings, the recent spate of collapses has been blamed on illegal construction, faulty building material, illegal alterations, major violation of construction norms, unauthorised repair work, tenants refusing to move out of dilapidated structures, and court battles keeping redevelopment plans of private dilapidated buildings on hold.

Following each tragedy, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) cites various factors and causes of concern. The reasons attributed by the BMC for collapses are usually out of its ambit or are difficult to control.

Unlike the previous collapses, however, the Babu Genu Market building housing 22 families and a civic market on its ground floor was a legal structure owned by the BMC, and it had been classified as dilapidated and urgently in need of repairs. Faced with questions on why the Rs 28,000-crore cash rich civic administration sat on a proposal to repair the structure for over a year, BMC departments have been passing the buck to each other.

While the BMC was quick to book an owner and a tenant for alleged alterations to the structure in the Aftab Manzil collapse in Mahim, which claimed 10 lives in June, it has given itself a clean chit and feigned ignorance of illegal alterations that were carried out in the Babu Genu market building. In a damage control exercise, it has also lodged a complaint against the ground-floor tenant for illegal alterations. With pressure mounting to fix accountability for the collapse, the civic body suspended seven officials and ordered an inquiry against 11 others more than 48 hours after the tragedy.

The municipal building was categorised as C-2 (B), which meant it needed urgent repairs. In March, the civic administration set aside Rs 1.25 crore for its repairs. More than five months after the BMC found out that the building needed urgent repairs, a civic team inspected the structure. While the blame game for the delay in repair work is now being played out between the civic Markets department that owns the building and the Planning & Design department that prepares cost estimates and floats tenders for such repairs, the BMC has admitted that there were delays in

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