As real estate prices skyrocket and renting out a house in the city gets increasingly difficult, many tenants are opting for illegal structures that are comparatively cheaper. Monday's incident at Teynampet, where a three-storey residential building on Bhaktavachalam Street tilted, once again exposed the risk of illegal buildings in the city. Taking no chances, Corporation of Chennai has decided to demolish the structure.
"We started the demolition on Monday night and will finish by Tuesday night," said an engineer. "The building is precariously resting on another structure. To ensure that there is no chain reaction, we are going very slowly ." The engineer said the adjoining building could also be demolished. "We are assessing the threat the neighbouring building poses. It looks it will be taken down too," he said.
As the demolition process went on, the authorities did not allow the building's occupants to retrieve their personal belongings. "We have things worth some 5 lakh inside the house including TV , fridge, washing machines and cash. We were not allowed to go inside and get them," said V Priya, the resident and wife the ill-fated building's owner. "We don't know what is next. But we are expecting some compensation.
We spent "35 lakh to build the house," she said. However, corporation officials ruled out any such possibility . "If the house got damaged in a natural calamity then the tahsildar would have given some relief from the chief minister's fund.But this is man-made," said an official. When asked if there will be a fresh audit of illegal buildings in the city , he said, "We do it on a routine basis. Senior officials will have to decide if there is going to be a special drive."
It is believed that Chennai has thousands of illegal buildings where owners have deviated from approved plans and added floors or increased the built-up space thereby compromising the building's structural integrity and safety.Ideally, junior engineers in each ward have to report such violations and issue notices to the owners. But sources say most of the field staff rarely check violations because of additional responsibilities and political interference.
Some assistant engineers say their workload is too heavy . "I have to accompany the councillor everywhere and follow his orders. We also have to attend to civic complaints and follow-up on petitions received through the complaint cell. Some of us also carry out duties of other wards because of staff shortage," said an engineer.