AHMEDABAD: At least four people were killed after a 20-ft wall of a two-storeyed building collapsed during a drive by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to demolish properties in Nikol area here today, triggering a massive protest by locals, following which the civic body ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Stepping into the matter, the Gujarat High Court suspended the drive till April 21 after some locals rushed to HC claiming that government can expand road even without razing structures.
After an urgent hearing, Justice A J Desai asked AMC to maintain status quo till next the hearing on April 21.
The building was being razed as it was one of the structures blocking the broadening of road in the area under the city Development Plan of AMC.
The wall collapsed on the victims during the drive undertaken in Uttamnagar area of Nikol in the eastern part of city, officials said, adding one person was also injured.
Residents of the area refused to take possession of bodies extricated from rubble and sat with them on dharna on road for many hours demanding FIR by police against the guilty, causing traffic jam.
They relented after top police officers, including police commissioner Shivanand Jha, assured them of taking appropriate action.
"We have assured the locals that police will take action in this regard. We urged them to send the bodies for postmortem, so that the process is speeded up. After having a word with the police commissioner locals agreed to take the bodies," said Joint Commissioner of Police (city crime branch) J K Bhatt who rushed to spot to control the situation.
Police later lodged the FIR while an enquiry was ordered by the municipal corporation.
Locals alleged that a JCB machine of the civic team went on to raze the structure, a commercial building, even as some occupants were still inside.
"Shop owners urged the AMC team to give some more time to shift the belongings. However, AMC team ignored our plight and ordered the JCB operator to demolish the structure. Thus, a 20-ft wall suddenly collapsed on those who were standing near the structure," said Suresh Patel, an eye witness.
Krushnagar police inspector C R Sangada confirmed to PTI that four persons were killed in the incident and one was injured.
Terming the incident as "very unfortunate", the civic chief D Thara has ordered a separate inquiry and formed a committee.
"This is a very unfortunate incident. We have formed a committee to inquire into the incident and find out how this has happened. The committee will give its report within 20 days. Action will be taken as per the report findings," said Thara.
City Mayor Gautam Shah told reporters that the victims ignored the warning of the AMC squad.
"Even when the demolition was going on, some persons ignored our warning and went inside their shops. When they were inside, the wall, which might be weak, collapsed on them. AMC has announced to give Rs 4 lakh to victims' families and Rs 50,000 to the injured," said Shah.
The deceased, all residents of Nikol road, owned shops in the commercial complex which was pulled down by AMC.
They are identified as Mrugesh Patel (37), Mansukh Ramani (50), Popat Patel (52) and Sunil Patel (23) while the injured Akash Patel (19) was referred to Shardaben Hospital by Fire department as he suffered a fracture.
Krushnanagar police station sub-inspector H R Vaghela said, "As of now, we lodged an Accidental Death complaint and sent the bodies for postmortem. Based on the PM reports and inquiry reports of AMC and police department, we will take further decision".
The issue took a political turn with the Patel Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) calling for Nikol bandh tomorrow against "corruption and mismanagement" by the BJP-led AMC and state government.
"Four persons have lost their lives due to criminal negligence of AMC. Corrupt administration first allow illegal structures to come up and then they raze it. PAAS condemns this activity. We have called for Nikol bandh tomorrow. We demand action against the culprits," said PAAS' city convener Atul Patel.
City Congress unit also slammed the civic body and announced to stage protests outside municipal commissioner's office tomorrow.