A four-storeyed 100 year old building, named Kesarbai in South Mumbai’s Dongri locality collapsed at 11:40 am on July 16, Tuesday. The building housed 16 families, and four shops on the ground floor.
The rescue operations soon began but the biggest hurdle in the operations was the very narrow, crowded, congested lane of Dongri, surrounded with constructions from all the four sides of the collapsed building. Reports state that the lane is so narrow that only one person at a time can pass through it comfortably.
The rescuers are facing huge challenges because the area is too narrow for heavy vehicles to pass through it. According to the officials, the fire crews and the Ambulances could not reach the damaged site due to the congested lanes and so they had to get all the required material manually to the site and carry the injured and dead ones off the area.
Teams of the Mumbai Fire Brigade, Mumbai Police and 3 National Disaster Relief Forces (NDRF) are at the mishap site and carrying out search operations. The NDRF jawans, however, had to carry out the search and rescue operation manually. There were several localities who lent their helping hands to the jawans by forming human chains and using their bare hands to clear out the debris and save the people stuck in them.
13 people have, reportedly, died in the incident and 10 are injured. The number of deaths may go up as the search and rescue operation is still going on. But now comes the question as to who is responsible for this tragic incident?
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) both have washed their hands off the incident. The BMC blames the MHADA for the collapse and MHADA has denied the charges stating that the particular part which is collapsed was not under it’s supervision. While the BMC identified the collapsed structure as Kesarbai building, a cessed structure under MHADA, and the MHADA denied the claim stating that Kesarbai building has not collapsed and it’s still standing, but an adjoining structure built in the year 1990 has collapsed.
Meanwhile, Vaishali Gadpale, Chief Public Relations Officer, MHADA while speaking to a newspaper organisation said that the Kesarbai building was a cessed structure and was vacated in 2018. “The collapsed structure was behind 25C Kesarbai building and was illegally built. There was no one staying in the MHADA cessed structure on Tuesday,” she said.
MHADA officials said, “We had written to both the BMC and the land owners highlighting the illegal construction that was taking place.”
While the BMC officials said that both buildings were called Kesarbai — 25C and 10 Tandel Street — based on where they opened. The building that collapsed was Kesarbai 10 Tandel Street. According to the reports, in the year 2017, building Kesarbai 25C was evacuated after cracks emerged in the wall and the sand started entering into the people’s homes.
To get the answers to the questions of the locals, Ajanta News got in touch with the local Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), Amin Patel. In an exclusive conversation with Ajanta News, Amin Patel held MHADA responsible for the incident. “According to the papers I have got from the BMC, MHADA is responsible for this mess. MHADA should be held accountable for this collapse. The building was cessed and the cess was collected by the tenant and was deposited to MHADA,” said the MLA.
“The incident was avoidable if MHADA had done the survey and given the transit accommodation to the people, so it might have saved their lives,” he added. He also said that the city survey number of both the buildings that are Kesarbai 25C and 10, is same and so both are MHADA buildings. He blamed MHADA for not paying attention on building 10 while it evacuated people from the building 25C.
He also said that when he had raised the issue in the Vidhan Sabha, the ministers along with the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had assured that they’ll look into the matter. “I’ve raised the issue in last 5 years for at least 10 times. I’ve been assured by the ministers that we’ll look into it. When I raised the issue 15 days ago in the Vidhan Sabha, the CM assured me that he’ll look into the matter,” MLA Amin Patel said in an exclusive conversation with Ajanta News.
While, he also said that the particular incident won’t hamper his hold on the constituency because people know that he has worked for them. “People know that I am working since last 20 years on this issue and I am doing best and I don’t think that this incident has happened because of me and it won’t hamper anything,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Police have registered an Accidental Death Report (ADR) into the incident. “We will conduct inquiry to ascertain the causes behind the incident,” said Nishith Mishra, Additional Commissioner of Police, South Region, who is supervising the search and rescue operations currently. He said this while talking to a news channel.
Ajanta News also reached out to some locals who held the government responsible for the incident.