With two wall collapse incidents claiming 21 lives in three days, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is considering invoking the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimse Act (MCOCA) against errant builders to curb illegal constructions.
“We are thinking of invoking the MCOCA against such builders,” PMC city engineer Prashant Waghmare told The Hindu, when asked to comment on reports that the civic body was planning to use the stringent law against builders and developers who had carried out more than one unauthorised construction. “But we are yet to take a final call on this,” he said.
Officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the civic body would likely first serve notices under Sections 53 and 54 of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning (MRTP) Act against such builders and then consider invoking MCOCA if they failed to comply.
A city-based labour organisation, however, was sceptical of the PMC’s intentions and charged the civic body of considering “absurd deterrents” to cover-up its own failures and laxity. “It might be pertinent to ask how the PMC’s invocation of the MCOCA against builders will stand up in court,” said Jayant Shinde of the Bandhkaam Kamgar Sena. “There have been at least 500 labourer deaths in construction site accidents in the city since 2009, yet the PMC has failed to bring even a single builder to book for negligence. And now, its authorities talk big about invoking MCOCA,” he said.
Pointing out that in most cases, guilty builders usually managed to get off the hook after construction-related accidents, Mr. Shinde asserted that the PMC’s tough talk stemmed out of panic.
“The PMC’s officials have failed in their own duty. This time, the magnitude of the accidents, in so short a time span, has exposed their shoddiness. Hence, in an attempt to pacify public ire directed at them, they are straining to appear tough by talking of invoking laws generally applicable to hardened criminals,” Mr. Shinde said.
Fifteen people comprising construction workers and their kin, including four children and two women, were killed and two others injured after a section of the compound wall of the Alcon Stylus housing society in Kondhwa collapsed on their makeshift shanties adjacent to it, in the early hours of June 29.
In a similar tragedy soon after, six more construction workers, including two women, lost their lives while four people were injured after the compound wall of the Sinhgad group of Institutes in Ambegaon collapsed on the labourers’ tin huts adjoining the wall in the wee hours of July 2.
Jolted by the twin mishaps, the PMC has begun a drive to check on 290-odd under-construction sites and the safety conditions of workers living in transit camps there.
It has also served notices of suspension of registration on two developers following the Kondhwa wall collapse incident.