Ghatkopar building collapse: BMC razes four other ‘illegal’ structures owned by Shitap

Almost a week after the Siddhi Sai Cooperative Housing Society collapsed in Ghatkopar, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has initiated action against other “illegal” structures owned by main accused Sunil Shitap. The civic body’s action followed after it emerged illegal alterations to the ground floor hospital at the Siddhi Sai building, owned by Shitap, caused the July 25 mishap that claimed 17 lives.

The BMC has demolished four structures owned by Shitap on LBS Marg and Andheri-Kurla Link Road, hardly 1-1.5 km away from the site of the collapsed building. “The demolition was being carried out for the last two days. We are investigating more such illegal structures owned and constructed by Shitap,” said Narendra Barde, deputy municipal commissioner (zone VI).

The four structures demolished included a warehouse, a garage, a two-storey structure in a chawl and two catering units. All these structures measured between 200 sqft and 2,500 sqft.

Shitap, a businessman and a local Shiv Sena leader, had allegedly altered the load-bearing beams on the ground floor of Siddhi Sai building. He was arrested by the Vikhroli Parksite police and is in police custody till August 2.

According to the BMC’s building proposal department (eastern suburbs), Shitap acquired permission to merge his two flats on the ground floor of Siddhi Sai building in 2009. However, according to residents, the civic body never bothered to obtain a construction completion report from him, neither did they conduct an inspection. “The permission, which was supposed to lapse in a year, therefore, remained technically open all these years, which enabled Shitap to undertake renovation yet again, allegedly leading to the building collapse,” a resident alleged.

Besides the four structures in Ghatkopar, Shitap has allegedly violated building norms in the construction of a lounge-restaurant opposite Powai lake on a prime plot owned by state housing authority MHADA. MHADA had leased the plot to the Shipping Corporation of India for a maritime training institute.

According to officials of the BMC’s S Ward, neither organisation gave Shitap the permission to construct a restaurant/lounge there. In 2015, the maritime training institute wrote to the BMC saying their land had been encroached upon. A year later, MHADA ordered Shitap to vacate the premises, but the latter managed to get a stay order on the same.