Thursday, August 29, 2013

Vadodara building collapse: What is there to investigate? File FIR against builders and officials, say NGOs

By Our Representative
In a sharply worded letter, a group of Vadodara-based NGOs has asked state urban development secretary GR Aloriya, Vadodara district collector Vinod Rao and Vadodara police commissioner Satish Sharma, to take “immediate steps” against the builders responsible for constructing the collapsed buildings at Ataladara, leading to 11 deaths, as also officials who granted permission for its construction. “Immediate step must be taken to file an FIR instead of wasting time on inquiry commission set up on the collapse”, the NGOs have said.
“Collapse of the buildings on August 28 itself is evidence enough to suggest corruption took place while granting permission to use the buildings”, the letter said, adding, “It is unfortunate politics is now being played around the collapse. Any ordinary person can say that the construction was weak. To reach this conclusion one does not require an expert committee to investigate. Criminal negligence and corruption of some of some the powerful persons needs to be nailed.”
The NGOs demanded that action must be initiated against Vadodara Urban Development Authority’s (VUDA’s ) former chairman and current chairman, Naranbhai Patel , for negligence, and criminal proceedings must begin against the builders, the architects, the structural engineers and all those who allowed the buildings to be allowed to be used. “Immediately FIR must be filed under the IPC sections 304, 337 and 338”, the NGOs said, adding, “A case must immediately begin in a fast track court, and sentence pronounced in three months.”  The twin buildings were constructed in 2002.
“Files giving permission to the builder by VUDA officials should be immediately seized as evidence. Sensitive data should be quickly scanned from all the files, and its results must be placed on the government's website so that it is not possible to manipulate facts”, the NGOs said, adding, “People affected by the incident should be provided with alternative accommodation, so that they do not suffer"
Even as demanding that the interim compensation must be paid within 48 hours, the letter said, VUDA must immediately carry out a survey of such buildings which are in a dilapidated state, and they must be demolished. The letter has been signed by representatives of Jyoti Karmachari Mandal, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Radical Socialist, Sahiyar, and Vadodara Kamdar Union.
At least eleven people died and five injured, while several people got trapped underneath debris after two buildings came crashing down in the wee hours of August 28 at Vadodara. The incident took place between 4.30 am and 4.45 am, when one of the buildings constructed by the Vadodara Urban Development Authorities in Ataladara collapsed. 
While the residents of a nearby building moved out after the first building collapse, a second building too collapsed within an hour's time. Personnel from the local administration, National Disaster Relief Force and the Fire Department handled the rescue operations. Cabinet minister Nitin Patel announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the deceased. The buildings housed 14 families each. The state government formed a high level Inquiry Commission, headed by retired Chief Secretary Dr. Manjula Subramaniam.
Vadodara Police Commissioner Satish Sharma stated that police is looking into the cause of the collapse and trying to ascertain whether administrative or criminal negligence had caused it. "We are also examining the quality of construction materials used in the building and trace the contractors, who made this building," he added. Chief Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "Heard about the collapse of two buildings in Vadodara. Rescue operations have begun."

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