At 6:30 pm IST (13:00 UTC) on 4 April 2013, a building collapsed in the Shil Phata area of Mumbra, a suburb of Thane in Maharashtra, India. The building collapsed quickly. First, a section of the building collapsed, it tilted, and then the entire building was brought down. A witness described the event, "The building collapsed like a pack of cards within three to four seconds."
According to Hasina Shaikh, a school girl who lived on the fifth floor with her family: "I had just returned from school and was changing when the building started shaking and came down on us... When I regained consciousness later, I was in the hospital." She says she considers herself lucky to be alive. One survivor is a 10-month-old girl whose parents had not been found as of 6 April 2013. Reuters reported the last survivor was rescued on 5 April, a woman who was "found after workers heard her voice and used camera equipment to pinpoint her location under the rubble."
Dubbed the "miracle survivor", a four-year-old girl, Sandhya Thakur, was pulled from the wreckage. She was unable to open her eyes, but awoke on 7 April 2013 to the awareness that she had suffered a disaster. Her father and six brothers and sisters are missing; Her mother died when the building collapsed. She is physically unharmed, but having a hard time adjusting psychologically.
According to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, payments of ₹50,000 will be made to the injured, and a ₹200,000 payment will be made to the next of kin of the deceased.
The building containing offices and apartments was under construction for six weeks prior to the disaster, but there are varying reports on the extent of the construction completion. The Times of India reported that "Twenty-five tenements on five storeys were complete and the sixth and seventh floors were under construction." Although there was no occupancy certificate, the first four storeys of the building were illegally inhabited by site construction workers and families. In addition to families of construction workers, there were also families headed by rickshaw drivers and/or those whose children attended tuition classes in the building. It is believed that the builder wanted the building to be inhabited to prevent it being demolished.
The developers, who intended to build up to 8 such illegal buildings, intended to sell the apartments for ₹1,100 to ₹1,400 per square foot. On average, the apartments were 175 square feet.
The building had come to the attention of the Municipal Commissioner RA Rajeevsaid because the building was said to be built illegally on forest land. Research into the collapsed building's land ownership has determined that it was owned by a tribal family, and the adjoining lot was owned by the forest department.
Although this property was not located on forest land, R.K. Pol, Chief Conservator of Forests, has said that the forest department will address encroachment issues in the Thane district from Jawahar-Mokhada to Alibaug.
The rescue efforts were supervised by District Collector P. Velarasu and Municipal Commissioner R.A. Rajeev, and the rescue was conducted by incident medical teams and fire tenders. A number of local hospitals treated the injured. The most critically injured people were sent to Sion and JJ Hospitals. Moderate injuries were treated at Thane Civil Hospital and Kalwa's Kalsekar and CSM Civic hospitals. As of 6 April 2013, 36 injured people were still receiving treatment.
Workers, including the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), used bulldozers, hydraulic jacks, power saws and sledgehammers to break through the "mound of steel and concrete" and dug an additional 8 feet (2.4 m) below ground. The rescue effort was complicated by the way in which the floors were "sandwiched" in the collapse, making it difficult to find individuals in the rubble.
The rescue effort ended on 6 April. According to NDRF spokesperson R.S. Rajesh: "We have dug beyond the basement level, and everything is now cleared; there's nothing left."
The building collapse appeared to be the result of poor-quality building material and having been "weakly built", according to Police inspector Digamber Jangale and Police commissioner K.P. Raghuvanshi. Lawful building construction in Thane district requires blueprints to be filed and approved by municipal agencies and permits obtained to connect electricity, water and sewage services. The builders did not file the blueprints in this case.
The police registered a claim of "culpable homicide" and on 6 April 2013 arrested the builders.
By 12 April 2013 Hadisulla Rakbulla Choudhary, a partner of the developer, was arrested for his role.
Ramesh Patil, a legislator of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) party, stated that the week before the incident he had complained the building was unfit and not legal. He wrote and sent photographs of this and other buildings to the Thane Municipal Commissioner R.A. Rajeev, Chief Secretary Jayanthkumar Banthia, and the Chief Minister. However, nothing was done.
At a state assembly meeting, Chief Minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan assured participants that there would be a thorough investigation of the circumstances leading up to the collapse of the building. Two individuals were suspended from duty: Senior Police Inspector K.P. Naik for collusion and the Deputy Commissioner of Thane, Deepak Chavan, for dereliction of duty.
Pratap Sarnaik, Member of the Legislative Assembly, demanded an investigation into the role of R.A. Rajeev, the Thane Municipal Commissioner.
The prevalence of illegal housing in India is due to a lack of housing coupled with high population growth, and illegal buildings are attractive to lower-income people because of the low housing costs. Many people moved to the greater Mumbai area in search of jobs, and without affordable housing, thousands sleep in slums or on the streets. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation reports that there are approximately 19 million families with inadequate housing. To meet the demands, there are many buildings constructed illegally. Further, some builders do not follow proper building practices and laws, or execute proper safety measures. Poor construction materials are also to blame in these circumstances. Within the Mumbai region there are estimated to be hundreds of illegal structures. Sameer Hashmi, a BBC reporter, says that activists "allege that unscrupulous builders often pay hefty bribes to authorities who turn a blind eye to these illegal structures and do not take any action against the builders."
RT reports that: "...incidents of this kind are not rare in India, where builders often care more for cutting construction expenses than for the security and quality of the work being done." This trend has been observed in other municipalities within Mumbai Metropolitan Development Authority in the Navi Mumbai Municipal Cooperation (NMMC) of Nationalist Congress Party, Vasai-Virar sector, and Ulhasnagar.
In 2010, the government of Maharashtra reported that there were about 500,000 illegal buildings within the Thane district.
In February 2013, Sunil Kumar Lahoria, a Navi Mumbai developer, was killed after having lodged complaints about 600 area illegal buildings. His son, Sandeep Kumar, said: "My father paid a very heavy price for exposing irregularities that took place with the active involvement of government officers. He made use of the Right to Information Act to deal with corruption, but he was killed." Forest department officials say that during drives to resolve encroachments and to raze Mumbra-Diva area illegal buildings on forest land, their staff received threats against their lives and threats that women in their families would be raped. A Member of the Legislative Assembly, Jitendra Awhad, and his supporters were said to be the source of these threats. According to Awhad, the threats are "blown out of proportion".
In December 2012 Legislator Pratap Sarnaik obtained information, in accordance with the Right to Information Act, about the scope of the construction of illegal buildings in the Thane district. The following was reported in The Hindu for Thane's divisions:
For the nine divisions under the corporation last year, 505 illegal buildings were demolished, there was action against 829 (which does not mean they were demolished), and in December, 2012 alone, 104 illegal constructions were detected. The year round 146 buildings were given notices, and 53 cases of violations were filed under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act and 83 cases registered under the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Act.
The Hindu reported: "while the TMC says illegal buildings were demolished or given stop work notices, in reality nothing happens. The buildings were rarely brought down and people continued to live there."
The total number of illegal structures are estimated to be about 490,000 in the Thane district according to information in the Bombay (Mumbai) High Court. The structures include slums, shops, chawls and other buildings. Although the court ordered demolition of all such buildings in 2010, the government's response was that no illegal structures built before 2001 would be demolished and no action was taken in response to this judgement.
According to Raju Phanse, Right to Information (RTI) activist and General Secretary of the Dharmarajya Paksha political party, Thane Municipal Corporation did not act upon the 2005 Maharashtra state resolution to identify illegal buildings. The order called for municipalities to use remote sensing technology to identify illegal buildings by 28 February 2005 and monitor satellite images every six months. R.A. Rajeev, Thane Municipal Commissioner, said that "we are doing what we can"; he admitted that 90% of Mumbra's buildings are illegal.
As of 9 April 13 people were arrested. Information from interrogation of the two builders, and documents found in one of the builder's homes, led to the arrest of the others in this case. Except for the engineers charged with dereliction of duty, the suspects are charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder and criminal conspiracy. They could be sentenced up to life if convicted.
This chart was created based upon the builders, police and municipal suspects' alleged roles as identified in an article by the Pune Mirror.
In addition, TMC engineers Subash Rawal and Ramesh Inamdar allegedly received bribes so that they would not demolish the building.
The local court on 18 May 2013 granted bail to Afroz Ansari who had supplied materials and Ramdas Burud, a driver to one of the accused officials of TMC. Judge KR Warrier granted bail to them against personal bonds of Rs 15,000. The court on 17 May 2013, rejected the bail pleas of Deputy Municipal Commissioners Deepak Chavan, Shreekant Sarmokdam and Assistant Municipal Commissioner Shyam Thorbole and engineer Ramesh Inamdar.
A formal campaign to demolish area illegal buildings began on 9 April 2013 and is expected to be conducted before the monsoon season. It will be led by Anil Patil, Senior Engineer. The first phase of a "demolition drive" begins as 57 illegal buildings in the district (including Mumbra-Kausa area) are vacated, taken over by the Thane Municipal Council (TMC) and demolished. To support the effort, 15 additional officials will be added to the demolition cell and 9 legal advisors will be added to address legal matters. The police are engaged to facilitate evictions.
The demolition effort will focus first on the most dangerous buildings. Other buildings at the Lucky compound have been razed as part of this initiative.
Further, the TMC intends to have sewer, water, and electricity service disconnected at all illegal buildings in the district. Water and sewer should be able to be turned off immediately; TMC is requesting that electricity is turned off by the electric service.
The Thane Municipal Corporation established a call centre to receive complaints about illegal buildings on 10 April 2013. Its responsibilities include: notifying municipal officials of the complaints, tabulating information about actions taken and preparing reports of complaints and activities for the Municipal Commissioner. It is a 24 hours a day operation.BBC. "In pictures: Deadly Mumbai building collapse" (slideshow). BBC. 7 April 2013.
Times of India. "Govt knew Thane district had 5 lakh illegal buildings, but did little." Times of India. 6 April 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2013.