Blame game in midst of building collapse tragedy

The house collapse Monday night in Lalita Park area of Laxmi Nagar in east Delhi claimed the lives of at least 65 people and left 130 injured. Many people who resided in the five-storeyed building, inhabited by mostly migrants from Bihar and West Bengal, are still missing.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has ordered a probe into the building collapse. She said: "Stringent action should be initiated against which ever department is responsible for this tragedy."

Dikshit said a probe has been ordered into the collapse and blamed the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), which is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for issuing No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the building and also accused the local body of carelessness.

Dikshit, who heads a Congress government, questioned the role of MCD in allowing an unauthorised construction. She said it was a clear "case of negligence" that water which had accumulated in the building's basement for over two months was not removed.

"A team will be probing; they will take in all the aspects of the construction and the reasons for the collapse will be detected," she informed reporters.

Meanwhile, when IANS asked the civic authorities to provide details regarding the building they said they are busy in rescue and relief operations.

Yoginder Chandolia, chairperson of the Standing Committee of MCD, told IANS: "The building is located on the river bed of Yamuna and with the heavy seasonal rainfall and the recent floods, water reached the building's foundation and weakened the structure resulting in the collapse."

Blaming the Delhi government for the mishap, Chandolia, of the BJP, said: "The Delhi flood irrigation department (of the Delhi government) was responsible for checking stagnant water, and the MCD has little to do with it."

According to residents of the area, the building that collapsed was located in an unauthorised colony that had been regularised. About eight such dilapidated buildings are there in Lalita Park, similar to the one that collapsed. The owner Amrit Singh is on the run along with his family.

Chandolia added that it is a known fact that the collapsed building was "unauthorised and it had been constructed without clearances and we have no responsibility in maintaining such unauthorised buildings".

"Instead of blaming municipal authorities, let the Delhi government ask the Delhi Police to arrest the landlord who kept adding more floors. There were over a hundred people staying in a building which was around 15 years old. The MCD did not know it was going to collapse," he said.

A Delhi government official, pleading anonymity, informed that it was the responsibility of MCD officials to alert residents about potentially dangerous buildings. The MCD is supposed to regularly inspect unauthorised colonies.

However, Chandolia declined to say when was the last time they had checked on the locality.

MCD Commissioner K.S. Mehra who visited the locality Tuesday morning admitted that MCD carries out surveys every year to detect dangerous buildings.

"We have set up an expert panel of structural engineers to identify unsafe buildings. We will be doing a survey in the area and take adequate action including demolition of such unsafe buildings," he added.

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