Chennai: When 'Belief', the 11-storey building at Moulivakkam, was pulled down, it was curtains on a two-year saga that exposed the darker side of the building business.
Amidst the surrounding gloom as black clouds gathered on a rainy day, the building carrying the beliefs of many aspiring families came down in smoke. The appeals for compensation for the families who bought the buildings still remain as demands with no one taking responsibility to pay for the financial losses and the mental agony.
The responsibility for the tragedy that killed 61 innocent workers was pinned on the builders alone, but no accusing fingers were raised against the government officials who relaxed the rules to give permission or failed to monitor the construction works
It was on a similar rainy day, the other building called 'Faith' collapsed on September 28, 2014. It was immediately pointed out that the land on which the buildings were constructed was on a lake bed and unsuitable for building such towering structures.
The tragedy, triggered a hue and cry over the building safety norms and calls for stringent laws to regulate the construction of apartments. An enquiry commission headed by Justice R.Raghupathy was constituted following protests by opposition parties.
The report of the commission tabled in Assembly held the builders alone responsible for the collapse of the building, while pointing out that the incident was the best example about the dark side of real estate and construction business where money is considered to be the only ambition while lives of human beings are put at stake.
The persons held responsible were Manoharan, managing director of the Sirsti Housing Private Limited, M. Muthukamatchi and M. Balagurusamy, directors, S. Venkatasubramaniam, structural engineer, Vijay Bargotra, consultant architect and R. Duraisingam, K. Karathik and S. Sankar Ramakrishnan, site engineers.
But, the Opposition found many faults in the report and alleged that it had protected the officials who had committed blunders. It did not conduct enquiries with CMDA officials. The Opposition leaders also cited the relaxation of rules to build the apartments and charged the commission with not coming out with proper explanations about the relaxation.
The demands for demolishing the dangerous structure, 'Belief' went unheeded for more than a year. Finally, the Supreme Court ordered its demolition in May this year and the government also gave its nod.
The building finally came down as daylight was fading and darkness was getting thicker all around, while pigeons symbolising hope and peace, fluttered their wings, hoping for a better dwelling in a better world.
What Raghupathy commission said?
The commission suggested comprehensive legislation or vitalisation of the existing legislation so that essential features like insurance package creating triangular responsibilities among bank, builder and customer could be made. It introduced penal provisions and insisted upon the construction firms taking up mega projects to deposit a sizeable sum in fixed deposit for 10 years.
Justice Regupathy also recommended reconstitution of the CMDA at the foundation level by forming a committee consisting of a technical officer of the agency, a law officer, experts in soil investigation, foundation design, and structural engineering to compulsorily monitor all mega projects.
"Apart from ensuring quality and compliance issues, the main task of the committee should be to inspect the site at all crucial stages, particularly during earth working for foundation, foundation concerting, laying the roof of basement floor and laying of the roof at each floor," the commission said.
The commission has made a strong case for constituting a special squad to check primarily all mega projects taking place in and around the city limits so that recurrence of any bad incidents could be immediately stopped.
It also recommended constitution of a committee so that the loss caused to the individuals who booked the flats and the injury and damage incurred by neighbouring residents. Their buildings may be assessed and necessary recommendations may be made by such committee and compensation can be disbursed," he said....