Panaji, Jan 7 IANS | 11 months ago

The death toll in last week's building collapse in Goa can go up to 29, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said Tuesday, as the state human rights panel issued notice suo motu to the government seeking information about the incident.


The hunt for dozen-odd labourers trapped under the debris could well be over, with Parrikar saying "every authority has certified that there was no possibility of anyone surviving in the debris anymore".

This development could take the toll to 29, with 17 bodies already being recovered from the debris since Saturday.

One under-construction building in the new phase of the Ruby Residency project in Canacona town, 80 km south of here, came down crashing Saturday.

The chief minister assured that all the bodies would be recovered and the debris cleared within two days.

Clearance of debris through machines, which was called off Monday after an adjoining building developed cracks, resumed manually late Tuesday.

The government has ordered the demolition of three adjoining buildings as well as a set of duplex bungalows, which were of poor quality and were also threatening to cave in during the debris clearing operation.

"We have sought technical help from a Pune-based company. The equipment to demolish the building will arrive here tomorrow (Wednesday)," Parrikar said.

He said prima facie it appeared that bad quality of construction material and the fact that part of the foundation of the five-storeyed building was in soft untreated mud, could have caused the collapse.

Three government officials have been suspended in the case, and one arrested, Parrikar said.

He, however, ruled out any political corruption as a cause for the accident, placing the blame lock, stock, and barrel on corrupt bureaucrats.

"There appears to be no political corruption in this case, only bureaucratic corruption. If there is let the investigation show it. We will take action against everyone," Parrikar said.

The Congress as well as the Nationalist Congress Party have charged that permissions for the project were granted during the BJP regime.

The opposition has also claimed that state Sports minister Ramesh Tawadkar owned two flats in the same project and had backed the illegalities in the same.

"These are rubbish charges. All the main permissions were granted in 2010, when the Congress was in power. Our government was sworn in in 2012," the chief minister said.

He said he was willing to probe a builder-politician nexus, if people were to provide him with adequate proof.

The shocking images of the collapse and sustained reportage in the media has now led the State Human Rights Commission to issue notice to the Goa government.

The notice issued Tuesday seeks a response from the chief secretary by Feb 7 on what led to the incident and the steps taken by the authorities to afford relief to those affected by the tragedy.

Asked why neither the owners of the real estate company, or its contractor or the engineers involved in the construction have been arrested, Parrikar said police were still on the lookout.

"One of the accused, Vishwas Desai, has already applied for anticipatory bail," Parrikar said.

State police would be heading for Mumbai to track down the promoters of the Navi Mumbai-based company Bharat Developers and Realtors, he said.

Calling the incident an eye opener, Parrikar said new construction norms have been issued by the state government to ensure that such incidents do not recur.

(Posted on 07-01-2014)