Is corruption to blame for Thane building collapse?

“At least 22 people were killed (the toll is now reported as being 28) and over 64 injured when a seven-storied under-construction building collapsed in Thane on Thursday, Disaster Management Control Cell of the Thane Municipal Corporation said.

"Civic officials said the building in Shil Dhaigar locality was unauthorised. They claimed that it was built on forest land and was occupied at least up to the fourth floor,” Firstpost reported this morning.

Let’s take a look at some facts:
• The building is a seven-storied one
• The building was unauthorized
• It was built on forest land
• It was occupied up to the fourth floor

The building which collapsed in Mumbra. AFP.

The building which collapsed in Mumbra. AFP.

Many facts, and only one question: how can an unauthorized seven-storied structure be built on forest land and be occupied without any government department being aware of it?

“Santosh Kadam, head of disaster management cell of Thane Municipal Corporation, said: “Seven floors were built in merely three to four months. It was bound to collapse due to the inferior construction material used by the builders,” HT says.

If Mr. Kadam saw this coming up, why did he do nothing about it?

Not just the authorities; how could no citizen from the area have noticed it being built, and, if they did, why did they not complain or draw the media’s attention to the infraction?

People were living in the building, there was a coaching class on the second floor. How did the building get water and electricity connections?

The entire incident reeks of corruption at many levels and in many departments. From the local civil authorities who allowed the building to come up, to the electricity department which made connections available, to the water department which provided connections, to the local police station which failed to see something wrong, to the local politicians who seem not even to have noticed the illegal building coming up, to buyers of space in the building, which, if unauthorized, would not have registered the purchases.

Building collapses in Mumbai are not new – and fade from the headlines quickly. Junior bureaucratic functionaries are punished, while the senior ones and the politicians get away scot-free when something like this happens.

They shouldn’t.

When 28 people die (and that is the number at the time of writing this), one cannot afford to ignore the incident or look the other way. More so because this building collapse is not a freak incident, but an incident which is becoming, frighteningly, more and more commonplace.

Those who are responsible, by acts of omission and commission, must be brought to book and punished immediately.

This is now serious enough for the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to announce a fast-track investigation and request for a fast track court and quickly bring the guilty to book. That will serve as a signal that profiteers will not get away with such crimes.

Sadly, no signal along these lines exists today.