Illegal alterations in Mumbai proving fatal
Civic sources said in the late 1990s, the state government had appointed a 10-member committee to formulate a strategy to prevent collapses. It had recommended stringent laws and accountability to be fixed on government officials, landlords, tenants and developers to check unauthorised extensions, and tampering with the structure of the building. “The report was put in cold storage,” said a source.
Senior architect Shirish Sukhatme demanded that the BMC conduct an audit of all shops in residential buildings. “Most shops and commercial establishments have made illegal alterations in the building’s core structure on the ground floor to get some extra space without realizing its danger,” he said.
The cement scandal in the early 1980s (inferior quality cement was supplied during that period) has also affected many buildings constructed between 1980 and 1983, he added.
In 2007, Laxmi Chhaya building at Borivli (W) collapsed killing 28 people after a jeweller allegedly carried out illegal changes in his ground floor shop. In 2013, 10 people died, including family members of advocate Rizwan Merchant, after the five-storey Altaf Mansion collapsed. It was alleged that a car showroom owner had made structural changes. Rizwan said BMC officials were responsible as they did not audit the buildings or act against illegal alteration. After the Mahim incident, BMC suspended five officials. “But they refused to grant prosecution sanction at the time of filing the chargesheet. Now these officials have filed discharge applications. BMC officials are playing with the lives of citizens for bribes.”