whose fault?

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 Sep 2017 11:19:51

THE collapse of an old building in Mumbai resulting in the death of as many as 33 persons including a 20-day-old male child raises multiple issues that range from official incompetence to popular apathy. In this particular case, as has been in many similar cases in the past, the civic authorities had been warning the residents of the building to vacate the place as urgently as possible since the building had outlived its utility long ago. The authorities had stated unequivocally that the building had to be pulled down immediately, failing which any disaster could take place. Despite these warnings about the impending danger, the residents of the building refused to move out and risked life. The heavy downpour in Mumbai a few days ago weakened the building all the more and the old structure came crashing down, claiming so many lives. Had the people moved out in right time, the disaster could have been avoided. Alas!

However, this is not a lone case in this category. There are thousands of buildings (in Mumbai and in almost every city and town in the country) needing to be pulled down immediately. In many places, the authorities are alert and in many cases,n they take things casually. Thus, the issue of very dilapidated buildings is a national problem that needs to be tackled in a comprehensive manner. In Mumbai, it must be admitted, the issue assumes a shocking proportion, thanks to the very large number of dilapidated buildings. It is obvious that as a nation, we have not given much thought to this issue.

That the issue involves safety of lakhs of people who live in very dilapidated buildings, is the most critical aspect. But the other aspect is the casualness of the people about their own safety and security. Neither are they in a mood to give even a scant consideration to official warnings nor are interested in looking for alternatives residence. To add to the problem, the authorities, too, do not seem interested in taking extreme steps of forcible evacuation of people from such buildings. In most cases, they are apprehensive about a public retaliation. Cumulatively, all this results in collapse of such buildings claiming human life and incalculable loss of collective and individual property.

In urban areas, this issue has assumed a serious dimension in the past some years. Each year, countless people get killed just because they divorce reason and cling thoughtlessly to their old dwellings, no matter the official warnings.

It is obvious that the Government will have to take up the issue dilapidated buildings that have outlived their utility and ensure that the people are moved out -- even forcibly -- and the bad buildings are brought down to make way for new construction. The question is not just about one building; it is about the attitude the authorities and people must adopt to urban management.