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High Court unhappy over resettlement of quake-hit Monday, March 5, 2001
AHMEDABAD: In a significant observation, Justice S K Keshote of the Gujarat High Court has stated that the government should have taken care of people who have been rendered homeless by the earthquake by compelling the builders to repair or rebuild the damaged houses at their own cost.
"Shelter is the most important thing to be restored, and in this direction I think nobody is caring in the city of Ahmedabad," Justice Keshote stated.
"The approach of the state government and police to book all persons responsible for inferior constructions which collapsed and killed or injured many on January 26 is commendable," Justice Keshote said. However, he added, even if these people are convicted will it solve the problems of those persons who have lost their flats or tenements? "I have my own reservation that the state government will compensate these house owners to the extent of their full losses''.
The HC judge made the observation last week in a case of Bansilal Sugnomal Tekchandani versus the State of Gujarat which was filed after the earthquake on January 26.
The judge said, "The approach of booking all builders may not be the only solution. It is difficult for the middle class to construct their homes, and their (people) real desire is action against those builders by police and the state to compel them to first rebuild the damaged houses at their own cost".
Asked to comment on the HC observation, senior counsel K J Sethna said conviction or acquittal of the people could take months if not years to happen and till then the government should take care of the immediate relief of the people. Though this is not binding on the administration as it is not a directive but just a observation, the government should think about it seriously, he added.
When contacted municipal commissioner K Kailashnathan said as the matter was sub judice it would not be appropriate for him to discuss the subject.
In fact, says inspector F A Gohil of the Satellite area, the case of Shikhar apartments, where maximum casualty of over 89 persons was recorded in the city of Ahmedabad, is a case in point. Even after suffering damage to life and property the survivors of Shikhar tried to talk the matter out with builder Satish Nyalchand Shah. From January 26 to February 10 the hapless residents, many of whose relatives had died, were more worried about how to get the builder to shell out compensation and work out a formula where they could start living routinely as soon as possible.
Only on February 10, inspector Gohil registered an offence by taking suo motu cognisance of the incident. "But not the residents. Even after I had registered the case the people of Shikhar had not a word of anger for Shah, they kept meeting him, demanding immediate relief, alternative shelter," he says.