Mumbai building collapse - Who is to blame?

10 people have already been killed after a four-storey building collapsed in Mumbai's Dongri locality at around
11 am on Tuesday, 16 th July. Many remained trapped in debris while the entire locality was in shock and the
authorities trying their level best to execute rescue operations. One of those killed has been identified as 45-
year-old Abdul Sattar Kalu Shaik. A woman was also confirmed as among the dead when initial reports poured
Two teams of 5th battalion of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were deployed at the building collapse
site for rescue and relief work along with fire brigade teams. Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis said that he
was monitoring the situation. "As per the infomation I have received, the building was 100 years old. The entire
focus is on rescuing the people trapped. An investigation will be done," he said.
A nasty habit which has become a second nature for most of us is that we like to lay the blame for our
miseries on others. It helps bolster our personal comfort zone that if the tea is cold in the morning the
wife is to blame, if the paper arrives late, the paper service is to blame, if the clothes are not ironed the
laundry is to blame and if my boss reprimands me for coming late HE is to blame.
So while some people mourn the loss of lives of their near and dear ones and indeed, their livelihood in
a building collapse many of us are spoilt for choices as to who is to blame.
It has barely been a fortnight since the rain played havoc with Mumbai and the Malad wall collapse
shocked the nation and now the Dongri horror has once again trained the spotlight on the financial
capital of India. Mumbai - A city coming apart at the seams with a clueless administration without any
coherent answers or solutions desperately trying to find a convenient scapegoat to blame.
There is no doubt that the genesis of the tragedy spills beyond the fact that the building is a century old.
In fact, lasting a hundred years speaks well of those who actually built it. However, illegal constructions,
alterations, land grab, poor planning, inadequate safety measures and many similar transgressions only
hastened the tragedy and added on to the damage quotient.
But for those of us who are qualified nags and complainants, we can blame so many people today. The
builder, the developer, the house owner, the town planner, the civic body, the local administration, the
government and indeed, the tenant himself. One news channel pointed out that the constructions in the
area were further weakened by indiscriminate alterations made in the old buildings by the locals
themselves to add on space. The by lanes were narrow and encroached upon not allowing relief and
rescue operators to move in and out freely. This has hamstrung rescue operations hugely. It is yet
another déjà vu moment as this is not a new phenomenon.
Human greed, lack of respect for laws, rules and regulations, carelessness, laziness and apathy is the
recipe that cooks up Dongri like dishes for us and the poor are not always the sufferers. High rises and
posh malls are also under threat because of lack of safety basics and exigency infrastructure even today.
Fire extinguishers, emergency lights first aid kits, pathfinder and ‘glow’ signages, training of staff,
upkeep of fire safety tools are all necessary and cannot be dismissed as choices of options any more.
The building code says it and so do all who are in the safety business. There is huge emphasis on
prevention of accidents and fires and if a city like Mumbai is under threat 24x&, what to say about
smaller cities and towns? The monsoons have only just begun and let us keep our fingers crossed-
because that is probably all we can do now.

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