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Five children killed in wall collapse

Devesh K. Pandey
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Instead of extending help, landlord fled from the spot, alleges a resident

Municipal workers and firemen clearing the debris of a compound wall of an under-construction building that collapsed in Dallupura village on the outskirts of the Capital on Wednesday.- Photo: Shanker Chakravarty
Municipal workers and firemen clearing the debris of a compound wall of an under-construction building that collapsed in Dallupura village on the outskirts of the Capital on Wednesday.- Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

Five minor children of daily wage workers playing outside their homes were crushed to death when a poorly constructed 20-foot-high wall collapsed on them in Dallupura village on the outskirts of the Capital on Wednesday. Bereaved families alleged that the landlord had erected the wall a fortnight ago to segregate the plot from the portion that he intended to rent out for use as a warehouse by a reputed beverages company.

Tragedy struck around 9-30 a.m. when the children were busy playing outside their one-room accommodations inside the 1,000-square-yard premises that houses 28 such small units. A huge portion of the brick-wall came crumbling down on them like a pack of cards. “I was outside my room attending to my child when it all happened. I along with the other residents raised an alarm, seeking help to pull the children from under the rubble. Instead of extending help our landlord Vijender Gujjar, who was standing nearby overseeing the work on the other portion, fled from the spot. I saw him running away,” alleged Kusum, a resident.

The police rushed the children to Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital where five of them were declared dead on arrival. They were identified as Kanchan (7), Amit (7), Ankit (6), his sister Baby (2) and Aditya (5). Aditya’s sister Saraswati (4) also sustained serious injuries and is presently under treatment at the same hospital.

“I was in my house when I heard a loud noise. I came out and found that the wall had collapsed. I along with other area residents rushed to rescue those trapped. But the children had died on the spot,” said neighbour Alam.

Parents of most of the victims were out at work when the incident took place. “My husband is a rickshaw puller, who left for work around 6 a.m. I also work as a domestic help and had left shortly before it all happened,” said Adtiya’s mother Sunita.

Mithilesh, who also is a domestic help and her husband Satish a safai karmchari , lost her two of her four children. “We have been living her for the past 10 years. My husband had left for work, but I was in the house when the wall collapsed. I lost my two children,” said a heartbroken mother, randomly breaking into tears.

Bodies of the children were handed over to the families around 5 p.m.

Locals and the tenants held the landlord responsible for the deaths, alleging that he had got the wall erected without any proper support, leaving a narrow entry to the premises.

“They used substandard material in the construction. A storehouse was being constructed on the other side of the plot, to be given to a beverage company,” alleged Mukesh, an area resident.

They alleged that unauthorised construction went on unchecked in the area despite a police post located nearby. “The area police station is also not far from here,” said Mukesh.

Preliminary investigations by the police have indicated that an earth-mover was levelling the land on the other side of the plot when the wall collapsed.

They have registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder besides other relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code against Vijender, contractor Bhanwar Singh and sub-contractor Sunil. “They are absconding,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (East Delhi) Prabhakar.

For his part, the area Deputy Commissioner has sent a report of the incident to the Divisional Commissioner and the Delhi Government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs.1 lakh for each of the families of the deceased and Rs.50,000 to the injured.

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