Balewadi slab collapse: Three months on, dead workers’ kin await compensation

After a sessions court in Pune rejected the bail applications of the six accused persons, they moved the Bombay High Court through their lawyers for seeking anticipatory bail.

Written by Chandan Haygunde , Sushant Kulkarni | Pune | Published:October 29, 2016 4:51 am
Balewadi slab collapse, pune, pune building disaster, pune construction disaster, pune workers, pune construction, pune illegal building, pune illegal construction, pune news The nine workers who died in the accident —Basawant Saha, Tufan Saha, Sarban Saha, Karan Saha, Munna Paswan, Varun Singh, Bipin Thakur, Vijay Paswan and Rajesh Paswan—were natives of Bihar, who had migrated to Pune for work

THREE MONTHS have passed after an illegal slab on the 13th floor of the Park Xpress building in Balewadi collapsed and killed nine labourers on July 29. But the Pune city police are yet to arrest the four builders who were partners in the construction project. The grieving family, who have lost their loved ones in the accident, are living on hope that the compensation promised to them will be delivered at the earliest.

The nine workers who died in the accident —Basawant Saha, Tufan Saha, Sarban Saha, Karan Saha, Munna Paswan, Varun Singh, Bipin Thakur, Vijay Paswan and Rajesh Paswan—were natives of Bihar, who had migrated to Pune for work.

Maharaj Saha, a worker at a construction site in Hadapsar, lost his cousin Saravan and younger brother, Karan, in the incident. He said, “We have been told that compensation would be given to the family members of the deceased because the labour court has given the order. I never want to go to that site now. The building has brought bad luck to our family. The compensation package will help our families but it will never bring back the people we have lost.”

Maharaj’s relative, Vinod Saha, said four of those who died were his relatives and others were closely known to him. “Almost all the workers were from Samastipur, Bihar. I came here around 12 years ago and others joined later to earn money. After the death of nine workers, over 50 workers have left the site and returned to their respective villages. They may come back to Pune after Diwali for work, certainly not at the same site…..More people could have died there. Some labourers were working at other spots on the same site. Also, four to five persons survived as they managed to hold on to a temproary structure during the accident,” he said. “This Diwali is no happiness for us. We won’t get our men back. We hope the families of deceased get compensation soon. Some of those who died were married and have children, who are living in poor conditions at their native villages,” he said.

Asked whether the families will fight against the builders for justice, Vinod says, “Woh sab bade log hain sahab. Hum kaam karange to jiyenge. Jo mar gaye unake gharwalon ko muavja mile bass. (They are powerful people sir. We live if we work. It will be enough if the family members of the deceased get the compensation.)”

The probe so far

Around 10.30 am on July 29, the slab on the 13th floor of Park Xpress building in Balewadi collapsed. Nine workers at the spot died and three were injured. According to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), the developers had not taken any sanction to work on 12th and 13th floor and therefore, the work was illegal.

An offence in this case was registered at the Chaturshringi Police Station under sections 304, 337, 338, 34 of Indian Penal Code, sections of the Maharashtra Ownership of Flat Act 1963 and sections of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act.

Police arrested five persons, including Mrigank Construction Private Limited’s proprietors Bhavin Harshad Shah (34) and Mahesh Sadanand Kamat, project in-charge Santosh Sopan Chavan and Dnyaneshwar Lakshman Chavan (35) and an employee Shrikant Kisan Pawar (44). Police say they have filed charge sheet against the five persons. But six others, including the four builders, who are the prime accused in this case, have managed to flee. Investigators say that search is on for the four builders — Arvind Premchan Jain (44) of Shivajinagar, Shravan Devkinanda Agarwal (45) of Pashan, Kailas Babulal Wani (48) of Erandwane, Shyamkant Jagannath Wani (52) of Shivajinagar and two other including an architect Pradip Janardan Kosumbkar (41) of Kothrud and structural engineer Hansal Sudhir Parekh (47) of Aundh.

Attempt to influence HC
After a sessions court in Pune rejected the bail applications of the six accused persons, they moved the Bombay High Court through their lawyers for seeking anticipatory bail.

However, before the arguments made by lawyers representing all the four builders were over, the High Court judge, Sadhana Jadhav, recused herself from hearing their anticipatory bail applications. In her order dated September 2, justice Jadhav stated, “The present applications were part – heard. That the learned APP had also sought time to take proper instructions on the basis of the papers of the investigation. However, in the interregnum, the applicants have made every effort to influence this court, which cannot be countenanced. None of the senior counsel or the junior lawyers appearing in the matter can be held responsible for the same. It is in this circumstances that the court has to recuse from hearing the present applications. Not before this court. Registry to take appropriate steps.”

Meanwhile, on September 8, the Pune police issued a press release saying that a magistrate court in Pune has issued non bailable warrants (NBW) against six accused persons. But, on September 23, Judicial Magistrate First Class SK Chaudhary, stayed this NBW till the Bombay High Court decides on the anticipatory bail order of the accused persons. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone III) Basavraj Teli said, “We are in the process of filing our opposition to the bail application filed by the accused.”

PMC takes action
PMC has cancelled the registration of all four builders and along with the architect and structural engineers, who were involved in Park Xpress project. Municipal Commissioner Kunal Kumar had directed to quash all the proposals of the four builder-partners of the project.