Authorities ‘threatened’ builders before striking deal to turn blind eyehttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/authorities-threatened-builders-before-striking-deal-to-turn-blind-eye/

Authorities ‘threatened’ builders before striking deal to turn blind eye

The elaborate sham served as a threat to builders Jameel Qureshi and Salim Sheikh arrested after the collapse following which they struck a deal with authorities for turning a blind eye to the illegal structures,Thane police sources said Tuesday.

A month before the seven-storey building collapsed in Mumbra,a demolition team from the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) and police had visited Lucky Compound with heavy equipment and merely “scratched the facade’’ of the illegal building beside it.

The elaborate sham served as a threat to builders Jameel Qureshi and Salim Sheikh — arrested after the collapse — following which they struck a deal with authorities for turning a blind eye to the illegal structures,Thane police sources said Tuesday.

According to officers,the building that collapsed on Thursday was still under construction. The team that visited the site had only dented the building beside it; this building was demolished by authorities following the collapse,they said.

“The JCBs (heavy equipment) only scratched the facade of the second building and returned. This was to convey a message to the duo,who promptly got in touch and bribes were exchanged. The civic officials concerned — five so far — were paid each time the duo added a floor to the second building,” said an officer.

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The building collapse has blown the lid off a highly organised racket which has led to thriving illegal constructions. Police are unravelling the threads of the racket,which comprises builders,civic officials and middlemen. Sources said this is a major reason why,despite several demolition drives every year,80 per cent buildings in Mumbra are illegal. The demolition drives are many a time used as a threat to builders,they said.

Meanwhile,the Thane police Crime Branch arrested Subhash Rawal (52),executive engineer,encroachment,Mumbra ward and Ramesh Inamdar (46),deputy engineer,encroachment,Mumbra Tuesday. Thane police commissioner K P Raghuvanshi confirmed said the two were “beneficiaries”.

Police said middlemen,or mediators,are a major part of such rackets. “Many people masquerade as journalists or businessmen but actually specialise in fixing up deals between builders and officials. There is a constant game of one-upmanship between them,with each mediator trying to convince builders that he can get them a better deal. The builders only have to watch them fall over each other and choose the best deal,” said an officer.

Arrested businessman Sayeed Patel and journalist Rafiq Kamdar allegedly acted as mediators in the racket.

Govt servants arrested so far

Deputy municipal commissioner Deepak Chavan

Assistant municipal commissioner Babasaheb Andhale

TMC senior clerk Kisan Madke

NCP corporator Hira Patil

Head constable Jehangir Sayyed,Diaghar police station

Subhash Rawal,executive engineer,encroachment,Mumbra ward

Ramesh Inamdar,deputy engineer,encroachment,Mumbra