Tamil Nadu

‘CPI petitioned officials about Mettupalayam wall last year’

Fatal fall: As many as 17 people died when a compound wall fell on tiled-roof houses.

Fatal fall: As many as 17 people died when a compound wall fell on tiled-roof houses.   | Photo Credit: PTI

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Chief Minister must take responsibility for the deaths, says Mutharasan

Two days after 17 persons were killed following the collapse of a large compound wall on their tiled-roof houses in Mettupalayam, CPI State secretary R. Mutharasan on Wednesday said his party had, last year, submitted to the authorities a memorandum signed by local residents, pointing to the security threat posed by the wall.

The Chief Minister must, therefore, take responsibility for the deaths, he said.

“The Chief Minister had told journalists in Mettupalayam on Tuesday that had the issue [regarding the wall] been brought to the government’s notice, the authorities would have examined it. But the people of Nadur had indeed brought the issue — the height of the wall posing a threat to their safety — to the notice of the Mettupalayam Municipality and the district administration by way of petitions since 1998. Their latest attempt was on October 13, 2018. Therefore, he [CM Edappadi K. Palaniswami] cannot disown the fact that the government had remained inactive,” Mr. Mutharasan said.

He displayed a copy of the memorandum that was submitted to the Mettupalayam Municipality Commissioner last year.

“After the petition submitted by my party’s Mettupalayam town secretary U.R. Palanisamy and 60 residents, demanding the reduction of the wall’s height, what action did the government take? It is surprising that the residents’ grievance had not drawn the attention of senior officials or the Chief Minister. And, had the officials taken action, the 17 persons would not have lost their lives,” he said.

This called for the registration of a case and the invocation of the murder charge against all the officials who failed to act on the petition, and that included the then Mettupalayam tahsildar and Commissioner of Mettupalayam Municipality, he said. Only if the officials were taken to task will such incidents not recur, he added.

A senior district administration official, however, said they did not have any such petition on record.

A senior Mettupalayam Municipality officer said he would be able to comment on the issue only after talking to the officials from the town planning wing.

Mr. Palanisamy said both he and the residents did submit petitions, but did not get any acknowledgement from the officials. He, along with the party's treasurer and former MLA M. Arumugham, had orally taken up the issue [before the October 2018 petition] with several Collectors in the past, but in vain, he said.

Mr. Mutharasan slammed the government for getting the bodies cremated ‘hurriedly’. “Only in a dictatorship does the government bury or cremate bodies without handing [them] over to relatives. And this is what happened in Mettupalayam on Monday,” he said.

It was against such an authoritarian approach that the residents had staged protests. But the police used force against them and registered cases and arrested some of them. The police should immediately withdraw the cases and release them, he demanded.

Bail plea

An anticipatory bail petition filed by the wall collapse case accused S. Sivasubramaniam, 61, just a day before his arrest on Tuesday, has been listed for admission before Justice N. Seshasayee of the Madras High Court on Thursday. Though it was filed on Monday, the petition got numbered only on Wednesday. In the meantime, the police had arrested the petitioner. Hence, he might withdraw the anticipatory bail petition when it comes up for hearing on Thursday and file a regular bail application instead.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 10:17:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/cpi-petitioned-officials-about-mettupalayam-wall-last-year/article30170744.ece

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