Inquiry against civic officials for allegedly allowing illegal alterations in City Centre

Almost two months after a massive fire gutted the top two floors of the Orchid City Centre mall in Mumbai Central on October 22, leading to 56-hour long fire fighting operations, the Brihanmumbai Municipal corporation will initiate action against civic officials for allegedly allowing the illegal constructions. The standing committee members and senior corporators have demanded action against previous ward officers, during whose terms the illegal constructions mushroomed inside the mall.

Last week the BMC demolished illegal portions of around 200 shops located on the ground and first floor of the Orchid City Centre mall. The demolition was carried out for four days.

Prashant Gaikwad, the assistant commissioner of D ward, which has jurisdiction over the area, said, “BMC demolished illegal portions of over 200 shops on the ground and first floors of the mall. The second and third floors that were completed gutted in the fire too had illegal alterations that were charred. Many owners have constructed mezzanine floors in their shops, and bigger shops had been divided into smaller ones with false/portable walls.”

Earlier this month, the Mumbai fire brigade had also revoked the fire no-objection certificate issued to the mall. As demanded by corporators and activists, it will not be allowed to reopen until a structural audit, declaring the structure safe for operations, is completed. Last month, the fire brigade had submitted a preliminary inquiry report about the blaze to BMC’s standing committee. It had noted that while the mall’s blueprint showed only 344 approved galas (shops), there were 1,344 shops.

Gaikwad added, “The remaining galas had been approved by the civic body’s building proposal department in 2017. However, these 200 shops had unauthorised additions and alterations to their original structures and we demolished them in the past four days.”

The committee had directed the administration to not reopen the mall until all the illegalities had been removed.

However, questions were raised by elected representatives in the civic body about how and when these alterations were made, were no inspections by BMC and fire brigade done. "The administration needs to pin responsibility for the bungling which led to such mishap. An investigation has been initiated against, current and previous officials who failed to take action or allowed such illegal construction to come up. We will await the report and take stringent action against those found guilty.

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