Gujarat: Concerns over safety of EWS buildings rise after child dies in slab collapse

Concerns have been rising over the safety of houses built for the Economic Weaker Sections (EWS) under the JNNURM scheme in Surat seven years ago, after frequent incidents of damage to the buildings.

On Monday, the roof of a building collapsed, killing a one-year-old girl, following which the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) decided to shift the residents to other EWS quarters in the neighbouring Vadod area.

The incident took place at the second-floor residence of Pradip Khande, a tempo driver, while his family, including his wife Asha and one-year-old daugther Shiya, was asleep. The building number 5 of Saraswati Nagar Awaas, was built under the JNNURM scheme in Bhestan, Surat, in 2016.

Neighbours rushed the three to hospital where Shiya was declared dead and the couple was discharged after treatment. Residents of the building gathered at the New Civil Hospital and demanded that the SMC provide them alternate housing arrangements. Parents of deceased girl refused to accept the body till their demand of redevelopment was accepted. Mayor Hemali Boghawala met the residents and promised to agree to their demand, following which the couple accepted the body and the crowd left.

According to SMC zonal head of the Udhna Zone, RC Jariwala, “The Saraswati Nagar Awaas was built in 2016 and was allotted to beneficiaries who were removed from the Tapi river banks and other slums. There are 20 towers with 640 flats in Bhestan where we will carry out a survey to find out how many buildings are in poor state. The flat owners will be given eligibility certificates and will be shifted to EWS quarters of around 340 flats built by the SMC in Vadod.”

SMC’s slum upgradation cell executive engineer Mahesh Jaimalani said, “The EWS houses were constructed under the JNNURM scheme and allotted to beneficiaries. Fifty per cent of the cost was borne by the central government, while 20 per cent was borne by the state government and the remaining 30 per cent by the SMC. The SMC used to take 12 per cent of the construction cost while allotting houses. We have also constructed Bhimnagar awaas, which will be redeveloped soon.”

Reacting to the developments, former municipal councillor of Congress from Bhestan ward, Satish Patel, said, “Over 50 incidents of slab collapse have taken place in Saraswati Nagar over the past four years. In seven years, the structures were damaged as good quality materials were not used. I have raised the issue of redevelopment in every general board meeting, keeping in mind the safety of people. Corrupt practices had been followed during the construction. An inquiry committee was set up to probe but the report is awaited.”

Sushila Pawar, a resident of Saraswati Nagar, said, “We have been making representations to the SMC for the past four years requesting them to do repair works of the buildings but no action has been taken. Now they have come up with a redevelopment plan but we want a third-party evaluation of the construction. We request the SMC to shift us to our old slum settlement as we are safe over there. We don’t want to die here.”