Chandivali building collapse: Family asks cops to probe call from phone of ‘missing man’

Writes to PM and President seeking investigations into the Aug 26 mishap

Written by ​TABASSUM BARNAGARWALA | Mumbai | Updated: October 17, 2017 1:43 am
chandivali building collapse, mumbai building collapse, labours death, chandivali labours death, indian express, mumbai news, indian express news Rescue operations underway at the collapse site (Express Photo by Tabassum Barnagarwala) 

Close to two months after the under-construction Crystal Business Park building in Chandivali collapsed killing seven people, the family of 53-year-old Rajkumar Gounder, suspected to have been at the site at the time of the incident and who has been missing since, has approached the Mumbai Police to inquire into a call made from Rajkumar’s phone five days after the collapse.

The family has also written to the Prime Minister’s Office, the President’s Office and the Mumbai Police Commissioner about the mishap, demanding an investigation. Rajkumar was at the construction site at the time of the collapse on August 26, his family said.

Rajkumar, the owner of an earth-moving machine, had gone there for a site inspection and collect dues from the demolition contractor. After the collapse, two injured labourers were rescued and seven bodies were found in a week-long search operation. Rajkumar, the family says, was not found in the debris.

In their letter, attached call records show that a call was made from Rajkumar’s Vodafone number at 4.33 pm on September 1 to an unknown number, which is now switched off. The call lasted for a minute.

That day, Rajkumar was carrying a Karbonn S 205 mobile phone handset and his wallet, his family said. Following the building collapse, his bike was found at the construction site. CCTV footage showed him entering the site but he was not seen leaving the place.

“For one day after the collapse, calls to him went unanswered. That is when we were sure he was trapped in the debris. Later, his phone went out of network area. We asked for call records from the telecom operator and found that a call was made from his phone that lasted for a minute (almost) a week after the collapse,” said Laxman Gounder, his younger brother, adding that if a call was made, somebody must have found his brother’s mobile phone.

The rescue operations had unearthed seven bodies in a decomposed condition. According to senior police inspector at Saki Naka police station, Avinash Dharmadhikari, one of the bodies continue to remain unidentified, which is suspected to be Rajkumar’s. “But the family is not letting us conduct a DNA test. No one has come to claim the body and only Rajkumar is missing,” said Dharmadhikari.

The family, however, said that Rajkumar was wearing a blue-and-white striped shirt and blue pants while the unidentified body was in a white shirt and the person had a Rs 500 note and a wallet that was not Rajkumar’s. Police claim the post-mortem indicated the body belonged to a person in his fifties. Rajkumar was aged 53.

As weeks passed and Rajkumar continued to remain missing, the hope that he might have survived dimmed for the Gounders. “There is no closure for us. We don’t trust that a DNA test will be carried out credibly. Even the search operation at the collapse site was carried out by locals,” said Lakshmi Gounder, daughter of Rajkumar. The family said they were unable to claim insurance because police have refused to file a missing person complaint.

The Crystal Business Park began construction in 2010 for a commercial structure. In 2012, it halted construction midway. In 2016, it sought permission from the Slum Rehabilitation Authority for building a permanent transit camp and began demolition. On August 26, the central portion of the building collapsed after constant rains under the weight of four poclain machines.

The Saki Naka police have charged the developer and demolition contractors under Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence), 337 and 338 (causing hurt by endangering life) and 34 (act done by several people with common intention) of the IPC.

tabassum.barnagarwala @expressindia.com

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