Kolkata building collapse: Death toll rises to 7; arrested promoter accused of enjoying political patronage (2nd Lead)

Kolkata, March 18 (IANS) With the death toll due to the collapse of a five-storey under-construction building in the Garden Reach area of the city reaching seven on Monday, the local people have accused the arrested promoter, Md Wasim, of indulging in rampant illegal constructions in the area adjacent to the Kolkata Port, reportedly aided by his connections in the ruling Trinamool Congress.

As per sources, a part of the five-storey building collapsed on the adjacent slum at Hazari Mollah Bagan in Garden Reach at around midnight on Sunday.

As the death toll climbed on Monday, there were protests in the area by the local people who accused the administration of turning a blind eye to the mushrooming illegal constructions in the area, reportedly carried out under the patronage of Wasim by flouting all the sanctioned norms.

The local people also accused Wasim of playing the role of a middleman for any sale or purchase of property in the area, alleging that no deal was possible there without paying him a hefty commission.

Meanwhile, the police have registered an FIR against Wasim under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, while the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has suspended three engineers after issuing them a show-cause notice.

“One executive engineer, one assistant engineer, and one assistant sub-engineer have been suspended. They have also been asked to reply to the show-cause notice within the next 48 hours. In the absence of satisfactory answers, strong disciplinary actions will be initiated against them,” said Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim, who also happens to be the Trinamool MLA from the area.

The three suspended engineers were responsible for identifying illegal constructions in the areas under KMC’s jurisdiction, sources said.

“Illegal constructions must be stopped at the beginning of the construction phase. Once people start residing there, it becomes difficult to demolish the illegal structures by evicting the residents,” Hakim said.

Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition in West Bengal Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, claimed that the accident in Garden Reach was inevitable considering the rampant illegal constructions in the area.

“More than 800 illegal constructions exist in the Garden Reach area. The area is the home turf of Mayor Firhad Hakim. Can he feign ignorance? Is it believable that such illegal constructions cropped up under his nose without his knowledge? How shameful it is for the culprit to disguise as the saviour and grab the footage during relief operations,” Adhikari said.



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