TN wall collapse: Owner of house arrested; Stalin blames negligence by officials

(Eds: Updates with CM's visit) Coimbatore, Dec 3 (PTI) A day after 17 people were killed in a compound wall collapse near here, the owner of the house around which the structure had been built was arrested on Tuesday on charges of causing death by negligence.

Amid demands for action under the SC and ST Act since the victims were Dalits, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami met the bereaved families at Nadur, over 50 km from here, and described the incident as 'painful' and assured action against the owner in accordance with law based on proper inquiry.

Conceding other demands, he announced enhancement of the solatium from Rs 4 lakh to Rs ten lakh and said orders had been issued to provide suitable jobs to the next of the kin of the deceased. He also said concrete houses will be constructed to replace the tiled roof structures in the Dalit settlement.

Sivasubramanian, who had been 'absconding' since the mishap, was arrested in Mettupalayam, about 45 km from here, police said adding they were interrogating him.

A portion of the over 15-foot high compound wall, damp due to heavy rains lashing the area for the past few days, came crashing down on the adjoining four tiled-roof houses in the Dalit settlement in Nadur around 5 am on Monday, killing the 17, including ten women and two children.

The arrest of the house owner, absconding since the incident, came amid demands by the locals and some Dalit outfits besides political leaders, including DMK president M K Stalin who visited the bereaved families and alleged officials had failed to act on complaints about stability of the wall.

Police said a case under Indian Penal Code section 304 A (causing death by negligence) had been registered against Sivasubramanian, who runs a textile showroom in Mettupalayam.

On Monday, the family members of the victims have demanded his arrest for constructing the wall, reportedly illegally, and initially refused to accept the bodies.

About 500 local people had staged a sit-in on the Mettupalayam-Ooty road while protests were also held at the Mettupalayam government hospital where the post-mortem of the bodies was conducted demanding the arrest of the owner.

Police had made a mild cane charge to disperse the crowd and around 25 people were arrested.

Bodies of the 16 victims were cremated at the village late Monday night with state Minister S P Velumani among others attending the funeral while the body of another person was taken to his nearby native village.

Palaniswami, accompanied by his deputy O Panneerselvam, Local Administration Minister S P Velyumani and MPs and MLAs, consoled the families of the victims.

Noting that besides the damaged four houses, other dwelling units in the surroundings were also tiled-roof and not safe, he told reporters tht concrete houses will be built replacing them.

When asked Stalin's remarks that the district administration failed to remove the wall despite complaints, Palaniswami said the former wanted to politicise each and every issue.

The wall collapsed due to heavy rains and so where was the question of the government's involvement in it, he added.

Earlier in the day, Stalin visited the kin of the victims and consoled them.

Later speaking to reporters, he claimed despite complaints from the villagers about the stability of the wall, the district collector and officials failed to take action, resulting in the incident.

Condemning the police action against the crowd at the hospital, Stalin said strict action should be taken against those responsible for the 'brutal attack' on the villagers.

He also sought increase in the solatium and government jobs to the members of families.

Meanwhile, nearly 80 members of various organisations were arrested here for attempting to stage a protest seeking the release of 25 people detained on Monday, police said. PTI NVM VS VS