Residents of Lalita Park in East Delhi are not aware that the rubble-filled plot near their apartments was the site of one of the major building collapses in Delhi.
On November 15, 2010, 71 people were killed and many more injured in the collapse. Five years later, the plot is nothing more than a convenient dumpyard.
Several months after the incident, many of the old residents shifted to nearby colonies. “Most people in our locality are new to the area and are not aware of the site of the incident. Some don’t even know that a major collapse had occurred,” said Salim, who has been living here for the past 10 years.
“After each building collapse in the capital, the media and civic agencies visited the spot and talked about the incident. But no one bothered to remove the debris from the spot,” he added.
Looking back at the case
The Crime Branch was roped in to investigate the incident, after the case was transferred to them by the then police chief, B K Gupta.
With the incident mired in controversy, the probe team faced a tough challenge in maintaining transparency as well as making a watertight case against Amrit Singh, the building owner.
After the Crime Branch’s inter-state cell (ISC) took up the case, Deputy Commissioner of Police (crime) Ashok Chand formed a special investigation team under the supervision of ACP Rajender Bakshi.
The team comprised 10 personnel, including two sub-inspectors, and inspector Ram Avtar Tyagi, who was the investigating officer in the case.
DCP Chand had suggested that the team should take a scientific approach to the case. Apart from recording statements of witnesses, he suggested they take the help of experts, especially civil engineers.
“Chand had written to the Director of IIT-Delhi, asking him to constitute a team of three senior professors to help with the investigation. The team was formed in two-three days. They took samples from the debris to ascertain the exact reason behind the collapse,” said police sources.
A week after the incident, ISC sleuths along with the IIT-Delhi team visited the site. They collected soil samples and concrete from the spot, which they sent to labs in Delhi and Pune, said the sources.
“However, they faced problems when trying to ascertain the exact height of the five-storey building. They later approached a South Delhi-based aerial survey and mapping company and asked them to provide a map and others details related to the height of the building,” added the sources.
In the course of the investigation, the team found that the building was initially constructed as a single-storey structure in 1988. In 1990, two more storeys were added. In 2005, two more floors were added.
The building also had a 3-m deep basement with 12 pillars. Even though the entire colony comes under the Yamuna flood plains, no attention was paid to safeguard the building against seepage.
The constructed height (20.5m) of the building was more than four times the plot width (4.7m), said police.
“While recording the statements of eyewitnesses, the team found that the building had close to 40 rooms and reportedly housed more than 200 people – most of them migrant labourers,” said the sources.
The ISC filed a chargesheet before the city court three months after it received the lab reports, said sources.
“The reports stated that the material used to construct the building was substandard and the construction job was shoddy,” added the sources.