Government panel to probe Goa building collapse; no arrests (Roundup)

Panaji, Jan 6 (IANS) A panel headed by a retired secretary has been appointed to probe the collapse of a five-storeyed building in South Goa that claimed 17 lives, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said Monday.

However, there have been no arrests. As many as 22 others were injured in the accident.
“Retired secretary V.K. Jha has been appointed head of a three-member panel which will probe the accident, examine the extent of damage and fix responsibility,” Parrikar said at a press conference.
He believes that prima facie poor quality material was used for the construction and said the panel would “pinpoint problems and fix responsibility”.
A dozen more are still buried in the debris, and believed to be dead, even as rescue work had to be abruptly stopped Monday afternoon after an adjoining building tilted perilously and cracks in it widened.
“We have stopped the rescue work and may demolish the building using the help of experts before it comes down,” Parrikar said.
Parrikar said a compensation of Rs.2 lakh was awarded to the next of kin of each of the deceased.
The chief minister said a string of glaring irregularities related to the project were coming into the open.
The occupation certificate for the flats was already issued even while construction was underway, and without the necessary stability certification, he added.
The state administration Monday suspended municipal engineer Ajay Desai for fraudulently clearing the project in the coastal town of Canacona, 80 km south of the state capital Panaji.
The opposition has demanded a judicial probe into the accident and questioned how state Sports Minister Ramesh Tawadkar, a former physical education teacher, could purchase two flats in the upscale residential complex.
Tawadkar, also accused by the opposition for backing the illegal construction, defended himself. “I bought the flats with my own money. They were not given to me in return for any favour,” he said.
Both the Congress as well as the Nationalist Congress Party have raised eyebrows about the government’s inability to make a single arrest.
Parrikar said the delay in arresting those accused of negligence and thus causing the accident – builder, contractor, site engineer, municipal engineer and others – was because the administration was focused on saving the lives of the trapped labourers.
“I am actually ashamed. There was no one there to take decisions on how to go about the rescue. I ordered all the help, machinery to come there,” he said, speaking of the lack of administrative leadership at the site.