Looking at the condition of some highly treacherous buildings in Kolkata, the KMC on Thursday decided to send a notice to the owners of these dilapidated buildings, which need to be vacated the earliest possible. In the past few years deaths have been reported in these areas putting the system in absolute chaos. The number of dangerous buildings in Kolkata comes to 3000 with the highest concentration of unsafe buildings in the Burrabazar area, the city’s trading hub. We all know that Kolkata is home to some of the magnificent heritage buildings like the Victoria Memorial, Metclafe Hall, Metropolitan Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Jora Shanko Thakur Bari to name a few.
If we could restore these historical monuments with such dexterity and passion then why should the other age old residential and office buildings fall short of this prestigious tag and be allowed to reduced to rubble? Moreover it’s the lives of the people living in these centuries old edifice that is threatened, with minimum or no chances of escape.
A civic body conducted a study on the number of dangerous buildings in Kolkata way back in 1997. The recent collapse of an old building in Pathuriaghata that killed seven families on Tuesday is a real eye-opener. The civic body is now armed with amended building laws which allows it to take possession and rescue the owners from unforeseen circumstances. But what arouses curiosity is that, in spite of knowing that such buildings are far from safe why do people still reside in such buildings? Ironically some of the residents living in such buildings pay rent as low as 100 Rs. per month and are reluctant to leave as it’s out of question to get a house at such cheap rent.
This Tuesday a century old building collapsed in 42 Pathuriaghata street and bodies of two people named Himadri Pahar (30) and Hansa Sahu (20) was recovered from the rubble. While most of the residents managed to escape the building, Pahar and Sahu weren’t so lucky.
Earlier the civic body had to face several hurdles even if the owner of a building wished to take on repairing work and asked the tenants to vacate the building. In such a case the tenants would move to court and put a stay on the civic order.
There are around 1000 treacherous buildings with little or zero maintenance in the Bowbazar, college street, Bhowanipore, Kalighat and Jorabagan area, which need serious renovation or reconstruction. Most of the residents refuse to vacate such buildings due to their prime and central location, which caters to their business and transport needs.
The problem is most of the times an owner cannot solely declare a building unsafe as there is more than one owner involved. It’s often hard for the owners and the civic engineers to come to terms with these owners as they are reluctant to demolish or repair the crumbling parts of the buildings. And the tenants too put their foot down when it comes to vacating the buildings.
In the corporation act started in 1984, the municipal commissioner was authorized to register an order to vacate a building if it was considered highly unsafe. If the need be he even has the powers to order the police to vacate the building, a rule which the civic body agreed is hardly implemented.
Under the latest plans of the KMC, notices will be sent to all the high risk buildings and incase the civil body fails to recognize in the owners, the tenants will be roped in and intimated about the alarming situation. The Kolkata police will play a pivotal role in area wise evacuation and subsequent demolition of all the dilapidated buildings.
“We will send our inspectors to find out the most vulnerable buildings in the city. Once they are identified, we will send notices to the owners or tenants to move out of these buildings,” said Mayor Sovan Chatterjee. The Mayor seriously hoped that from recent collapse of insecure buildings, the inmates of similar buildings would cooperate with the KMC building department and vacate the building till a new building is erected at the old site.