Four days after an under construction building collapsed in Dharwad, the death toll has risen to 15. On Friday, a few minutes past midnight, the team investigating the case tracked down and arrested the architect of the building — Vivek Pawar- from a lodge in Kolhapur. Meanwhile, the owners of the collapsed building — Ravi Basavaraj Sabarad, Basavaraj D Nigadi, Gangappa S Shintri and Mahabaleshwar Puradagudi surrendered to the Dharwad Suburban Police.
“The owners came to the station and surrendered. They will be produced before the magistrate today (Friday). They were in police custody since they surrendered past midnight. They informed us that the architect Vivek Pawar had assured them that there were no structural defects. We are still probing the matter,” DCP Nagesh, who is investigating the case said.
Police say that the owners of the building are landowners in the Saundatti area and had decided to invest money for the construction of a commercial complex. “Gangappa Shintri is the father-in-law of former Dharwad MLA from Congress Vinay Kulkarni. The family owns huge tracts of land in the region and Gangappa Shintri is one of the richest men in Dharwad. Up on questioning, the owners said that they had invested Rs 7 crore to construct the complex. They have claimed no knowledge about building construction and said that they proceeded as per the architect’s advise. We are investigating these claims,” a police officer said.
The five accused have been booked under section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 337 (Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 338 (Causing grievous hurt by act endangering life) of the IPC. Police say that the accused have applied for anticipatory bail.
Police say that the ground floor of the complex had several shops and the owners of the building had obtained a partial occupation certificate. “We have reason to believe that the Town Municipal Corporation officials did not conduct any inspection before granting the partial occupation certificate. So far we have not arrested any municipal official as we are still probing the matter,” the police added.
Rescue operations are still on for the fourth day with three teams of the National Disaster Response Force on the ground along with state emergency response personnel. The rescue teams suspect that five more people may be trapped inside the debris. On Friday morning, the NDRF team rescued a man named Dilip, who was trapped inside the debris for 62 hours. Dilip was still alive when he was rushed to the hospital.
Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, who visited the spot on Thursday announced that the compensation amount will be increased. Currently, families of deceased persons are eligible to obtain Rs 2 lakh compensation while the injured are slated to get Rs 50,000. “We will increase the amount and ensure that the compensation amount reaches the families immediately. I have instructed the Chief Secretary Vijay Bhaskar to do the same. If investigation reveals foul play on behalf of any official, stringent action will be taken against them,” Kumaraswamy said.