TWO days after the collapse of a four-storey building in Ghatkopar killed 17 people, a fact-finding committee set up by the municipal commissioner is planning to appoint an independent structural engineer to test the remains of the Siddhi Sai Apartments. Speculation surrounding the reasons for the collapse, such as illegal structural alterations including removal of load-bearing pillars, have prompted the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to also fine-tune the process of conducting checks on buildings undergoing renovation.
The two-member committee led by Additional Municipal Commissioner Vijay Singhal has been told to submit a preliminary inquiry report within 15 days. The scope of the inquiry will include testing of the debris that has now been stored at the Maniklal Maidan in Ghatkopar. “We will hire a structure engineer who will test the beams, stilts and the concrete to check the strength of the material. We will also examine the original floor plans available in our records as well as the documents Sunil Shitap had submitted while applying for permission for the nursing home, and compare the findings,” said a senior civic official.
Civic officials said they would call some residents for hearings and will include their version of the events in the report. “Since the building is not around any more, it may be difficult to determine whether the pillars had been removed. But we will present all the facts of the case in the preliminary report and the departmental enquiry will be a more details analysis of the findings,” said the official.
After the incident, residents had alleged that Shitap — sent to police custody till August 2 — had removed load-bearing pillars to set up a restaurant. Officials of N ward said Shitap had not taken permission for the renovation work he had recently taken up in the two flats he owned on the ground floor.
In August last year, responding to complaints of corruption, the civic body had introduced the system of self-certification, where owners could renovate their property as long as they submitted certain documents, including a structural engineer’s certificate. However, after the building collapse, questions are being raised about the misuse of the facility. Civic chief Ajoy Mehta said that while a system could not be developed considering the deviants of the law, changes could be made to tighten it.
“While we want to ease out the permission process, we also want to ensure better compliance with norms. Hence, instead of the current system where the proposals to be checked are picked manually, I will direct the building proposals staff to conduct the surprise checks on a random basis, where the cases will be computer-generated,” said Mehta.