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Civic flurry after boy death

Siliguri, Dec. 11: The Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) authorities today served a “stop construction” and showcause notice on Bikarma Prasad, a houseowner of Santoshinagar.

The move follows the death of eight-year-old Gopal Gupta, who was struck on the head by a falling grille piece when he was passing under the house yesterday. Prasad was carrying out repairs when the accident occurred, killing the boy on the spot.

“We have gone through the inquiry report and found out that the building was being repaired. A showcause notice as to what is the nature of the repair work has been served on the owner and, in case we find any violation of stipulated building rules, appropriate steps will be taken,” said Partha Choudhury, SMC’s member mayor-in-council (buildings).

According to West Bengal Building Rules 1996, all constructions have to take place on recorded land. Not only that, subsequent alterations and additions to a building can be done only after taking permission from the civic body.

“We will see what was the nature of the repair work. If it was an addition or an alteration, then steps will be taken against the owner because he had not sought the civic body’s permission,” said Choudhury.

With innumerable constructions coming up in the SMC area, Choudhury said his department has become stringent while passing building plans. “We check all the documents filed with every proposal and then pass the plan,” he added.

The civic body has demolished about 12-16 such illegal constructions during the past two to three years, sources said.

Samir Banerjee, the SMC’s chief executive officer, said the corporation would also check the condition of old buildings located in slums, markets and other localities in Siliguri. “We will identify buildings that appear vulnerable and in a dilapidated condition and serve notices to the owners,” he said.

Yesterday’s death has not only sparked resentment and anger in the area, but has also raised questions as to whether builders and developers here are effectively following preventive measures during the construction period.

“The builders who take up construction work in and around the city should comply with the rules and take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of their workmen at the sites as well as those of the residents and passers-by,” Choudhury said.

The builders, on the other hand, claimed that they use jute bags and tin sheets to avoid such hazards and also keep fire extinguishers at hand.

“Yesterday’s case is an unfortunate accident. But whenever we take up construction, repair or dismantling work on a large scale, precautionary measures are adopted to reduce chances of accidents,” said Arup Nandi, the vice-president of the Siliguri Builders and Developers’ Welfare Association.

Nandi, however, admitted that there are some limitations in the process.

“In case of small repairs, these precautions are not always taken. Also, most of the workers are illiterate and their ignorance might lead to mishaps,” he said.

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