Mumbai building collapse turns political: Shiv Sena leader Sunil Shitap comes under the scanner

After a four-storey residential building collapsed in suburban Ghatkopar on Tuesday, the role of Sunil Shitap — a local Shiv Sena leader — has come under the scanner.

 Mumbai building collapse turns political: Shiv Sena leader Sunil Shitap comes under the scanner

A four-storey residential building collapsed in suburban Ghatkopar. PTI

After Siddhi Sai Apartment came down in Ghatkopar's Damodar Park area, 17 people were killed and 11 were injured. The building housed around 15 families. Search operations are still on to extricate the people feared trapped under the concrete rubble. At least 30 to 40 people are feared to still be trapped in the rubble, according to IANS.

The Times of India reported that Shitap owned a maternity home on the ground floor of the building and had been carrying out extensive repairs in the same. The BMC in 2009 had allowed change of use for the ground floor to be used as a nursing home, said Assistant Municipal Commissioner Bhagyashree Kapse. A local resident speaking on the condition of anonymity said that Shitap was politically well-connected and therefore, people were afraid of confronting him.

There had been speculation by the locals right from the start that the collapse was triggered by the renovation work being done by the Sena leader. Congress leader Pravind Cheda told ANI that Shitap was planning to run a guest house in the building and the onus of the tragedy lies on him. DNA too reported that the residents of the building were claiming that Shitap was carrying out renovations to convert the maternity home into a commercial lodging.

The DNA report also quoted Lalit Vitthal Thak, whose wife and three-month old daughter dies in the collapse, as saying, "(Sunil Shitap) did not have a No-Objection Certificate for the work that was being carried out. He should be punished severely for taking so many lives."

Another DNA report said that Shitap's story is a rags-to-riches one as he used to do odd jobs, including that of delivering newspapers. He then ran a successful local cable network and slowly expanded his business activities to construction. He also took part in political activities and would organise local pilgrimage tours for the neighbourhood residents and often took them to Ekvira temple near Lonavla. "He hails from the Konkan region and was a strong leader in an otherwise Gujarati-dominated Ghatkopar," DNA quoted a Shiv Sena leader as saying.

The police have taken cognisance of the matter as Shitap has been detained under Sections 304(2), 336 and 338 of the IPC. The leader and others associated with the case have been taken to the Parksite police station in Vikhroli for further questioning.

The leader has been charged with negligence and culpable homicide not amounting to murder, according to CNN-News18.

Updated Date: Jul 26, 2017 15:29:15 IST