Seven people were killed when an under-construction four-storey building collapsed in Gurgaon’s Ullahwas village early Thursday morning. One more person is suspected to be trapped under the debris and till Thursday night, rescue efforts were underway to find him, said officials.
Of the seven bodies recovered, five were identified as Altaf (20) and Anand (22) from Bihar; and Kuldeep (32), Vishal (17) and Mohit (19) from Uttar Pradesh. The other two bodies are yet to be identified, although the former is believed to be “22 to 23 years old”, said officials.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar declared a compensation of Rs 3 lakh for each of the victims’ families.
As the village falls under Lal Dora area, and is hence not under the jurisdiction of civic bodies, officials said action will be taken against the building owner and the contractor.
“Six bodies have been recovered from the site and rescue operations will continue into the night. The bodies have been sent to the Civil Hospital for post-mortem. A criminal case is being filed against the building owner and contractor. The sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Gurugram has been tasked with conducting a magisterial enquiry to examine the cause of the incident,” Deputy Commissioner of Gurgaon Vinay Pratap Singh had said, earlier in the day.
SDM Sanjiv Singla, who is conducting the enquiry, said, “This building fell under Lal Dora area, so no bylaws as such were applicable. However, constructing a four-storey building on land like this, without any technical consultation or expertise, is gross negligence on part of the owner as well as the gram panchayat that allowed the construction. The structure seems to have been unstable and technically unsafe.”
Area free of jurisdiction
Coined in 1908 during British rule, the term ‘Lal Dora’ (red thread) referred to the practice of demarcating inhabited land used only for non-agricultural purposes from agricultural land for revenue records. This was done by drawing a red line on maps to mark the boundaries of areas under the first category. Today, villages that are included under Lal Dora are not governed by building bylaws, which means residents and landowners can undertake construction and set up establishments without seeking permission from the administration. The gram panchayat is the only authority in Lal Dora areas.
Subhash Boken, PRO of Gurgaon police, said: “An FIR has been registered under IPC sections 304 and 288 at the Sector 65 police station and the matter will be investigated. But the focus right now is on search and rescue operations.”
Owner Dayaram, who lives in the village and owns another building right behind the one that collapsed, is yet to be arrested.
Village sarpanch Anil Kumar, meanwhile, claimed he was helpless when it came to controlling such construction: “People have indulged in unauthorised construction all over the village. Even if we try to stop them, they do not listen to us.”
According to officials, the fire department was first alerted to the incident around 5.30 am. Personnel from the fire department, along with police and civil defence officers, arrived at the spot, followed by a State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) team from Bhondsi, and two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) from Dwarka and Ghaziabad.
“It appears this was an under-construction building. Three floors had been completed and a fourth was being added. A lander had been placed on top for this purpose on Wednesday evening. We suspect that, because of winter, the construction had not set and the structure could not handle this additional load… because of which the building collapsed,” said Assistant Divisional Fire Safety Officer I S Kashyap.
NDRF officials confirmed that seven people were likely to have been inside the building at the time of its collapse. “A security guard who lived in the building, but was on duty at the time, told us that seven people were inside when he left — including three masons, three electricians and his son, also a security guard… The first floor had four rooms in the front and four at the back… The men lived in the latter,” said Assistant Commandant Anil Kumar Singh.