Amidst broken walls and remnants of debris stand a few old chairs, a wooden cot, a steel cupboard and a makeshift bathroom.
This is the ‘home’ of Radheshyam Salunke, one of the few who survived when a portion of Datta Niwas at Bhendi Bazaar’s Kumbharwada area collapsed on August 13, 2008. Over 20 people died, among them all 11 members of Salunke’s family, including six children.
“I had gone out to light a cigarette when the back portion of the building came down,” said Salunke. He escaped again when parts of the front portion collapsed in July this year.
The collapse of Yusuf Manzil at Lamington Road brought back horrifying memories for him.
At the Datta Niwas site on Wednesday, there were few signs of reconstruction.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) gave the survivors rooms in Dharavi, but Salunke, a retired blacksmith, chose to live amidst the debris of his home. “The building was over 90 years old. I have lived here since childhood,” he said, pulling out a photo album of his family.
With only pet chickens for company, Salunke has been living there alone and claimed no one from the BMC or Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority came to investigate the site or begin reconstruction.
He no longer knows in whose hands the building site is and, like other survivors, believes “nothing will happen here”.
The landlord, who lives in Walkeshwar, lost interest in the building years ago, said Salunke. “His manager stopped coming to collect rent five to 10 years ago,” said Salunke, who could not recall the landlord’s name but said it was not his fault that the building collapsed. “Some years ago, we realised the building was weakening, but nothing was done about it.”
Other survivors blamed the power press machines from a shop on the ground floor, but admitted no official complaint was made.