As the fire at the Chennai Silks building in T-Nagar still remains to be put out, the blackened vestiges and charred facade of this construction, serves as a burning reminder of the fate that awaits several establishments in this area. A monitoring committee for building violations, appointed by the Madras High Court found in 2006 that 75 buildings in T Nagar violated existing norms.
10 years after these findings, the state's Urban Development Minister Radhakrishnan K, has now belatedly vowed to ensure the demolition of these illegal constructions.
"I am holding a meeting to discuss the legal aspect of this issue with the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority today. We are going to study the violations by several other buildings in this area and will ensure that those which have been built illegally are demolished," says the Minister, to The News Minute.
In 2011, the Chennai Corporation and CMDA took action against 25 commercial establishments in both Ranganathan Street and Usman Road. The move reportedly came after directives from the Madras High Court to the CMDA, the Corporation, Metrowater and the Electricity board to file affidavits reporting compliance of an earlier order on taking action against unauthorised buildings.
When the commercial establishments failed to respond satisfactorily, the Corporation sealed 19 buildings while the CMDA sealed 6. Chennai silks was amongst the constructions that was sealed by the CMDA.
"But all these establishments with unregulated constructions formed a union and went to the Supreme court," says the Urban Development minister. "The High Court had ordered for them to be demolished but they got a stay in the Apex Court in 2012. So, this issue became a legal battle," he adds.
Now, however, the minister claims prompt action is necessary. "We are going to discuss how the stay can be removed and will take the solution to the Chief Minister. Once, he approves it, we will go ahead and ensure demolition," he says confidently. But the real question is whether action will follow these declarations.
When asked, why the case was registered as an accident, when fire officials are saying that fire safety and regulation norms were not followed, the Minister says, "That is a matter for the police to handle. We can't declare that it is wilful negligence."
According to reports, the buildings that were sealed by the corporation in 2011 include --N S Ramanathan Jewellery, Omar Khayyam restaurant, Gandhi Hotchips, Sreedevi Gold House, Archana Sweets and Kesar Value office.
The CMDA had locked and sealed -- Rathna Stores, The Chennai Silks, Sri Kumaran Gold House, Jayachandran Textiles; Rathna Stores and SAT Complex.
Meanwhile, a portion of the Chennai Silks building has now completely caved in and residents around the construction have all been evacuated from their homes. Efforts to douse the fire and clear the smoke within the building, is still underway.