Two days after 15 people, including four children and three women, were killed when a section of the compound wall of a housing society crashed on makeshift hutments in Pune’s Kondhwa, legislators raised the issue in the Assembly on Monday and pushed for strict enforcement of labour and safety norms at construction sites.
The victims, from Katihar district in Bihar, were construction site workers and their families, sleeping in the hutments when the incident took place. They were working at a construction site right next to the housing complex.
On Monday, when proceedings resumed in the Assembly, NCP’s Ajit Pawar, who was allowed to move an adjournment motion over the issue, blamed the government and the BJP-led Pune municipality for their failure to ensure compliance of construction norms. “Violation of building norms has become a rule of sorts. Builders turn a blind eye to safety norms at construction sites while state and civic officials are lax in initiating action in such cases. The consequence of which are such accidents,” Pawar said.
Speaking of the accident, Pawar alleged that the developers had been carrying out work without the mandatory enrollment of the workers with the labour department. “The workers weren’t insured,” he alleged. Hitting out at the government, Pawar questioned why the labour department and the municipality, which had sanctioned the building permission, didn’t initiate action in the case, which could have averted the incident.
Junnar MLA Sharad Sonawane later demanded that the authorities should ensure that developers do not start construction without workers being enrolled with the labour department and being insured. Congress’s Vishwajeet Kadam, meanwhile, demanded an independent set of regulations for labour contractors. “There are no rules to regulate them at the moment. They must be held accountable as well,” he said.
Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil, who is also Pune’s guardian minister, meanwhile, announced that the government has constituted a high-level committee to investigate the matter and recommend measures to avoid such incidents in future. While informing the House that the police had registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against the developers, Patil said that the professional licences of the architects of the project, too, had been suspended. He said that the bodies of the deceased had been airlifted to their native place and that the local district administration was in touch with Katihar’s Collector.
While the state government has already announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the families of each of the deceased, Patil said that a proposal to extend additional compensation from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and the state’s Labour Welfare Board was under consideration. Patil also accepted Pawar’s demand that no further excavation or construction be permitted at the accident site without a comprehensive structural audit.