While Bhiwandi witnessed its second building collapse in less than a week on Sunday, the town continues to house 665 dilapidated structures, of which 206 are extremely dangerous. So why have they not been razed?
Residents blame the civic body’s negligence and lack of political will, while authorities blame the lack of consensus for redevelopment among developers, tenants and owners.
Eight residents of Mahadev building were killed in Sunday’s collapse, while eight others died in last week’s collapse. According to the recent figures with the Bhiwandi Nizampur Municipal Corporation (BNMC), of the 206 extremely dangerous structures, 17 are unfit for living.
Sunil Zalke, public relations officer, BNMC, said, “Twelve of the 17 buildings are unfit to live in. Notices have been issued to occupants of the extremely dangerous structures. More than 2,000 people continue to live in the extremely dangerous buildings. Water supply to these buildings has been snapped.”
Blaming the residents, Zalke said, “Despite repeated reminders, too, people refuse to vacate the structures. At times, they abuse the ward officers, like in case of Hanuman Tekdi. The victims manhandled the ward officers and drove them away. They refused to listen to us. Although we have made arrangements at community centres and night shelter, they are not willing to shift.”
Another officer said illegal construction is the main problem.
“The city lacks proper planning. Haphazard development and substandard construction material led to the collapse. Local politicians, too, helped these structures come up and thrive. Whenever officials try to vacate the building or use police force, local residents get a court stay order,” the officer added.
Most of these structures are at prime spots in the city, thus attracting migrants to the powerloom capital. “In the absence of political will to raze them, migrants move to these structures on rent. They can’t make any alternative arrangement. So they refuse to vacate homes even when we use force,” the officer said.
“The corporation does not have a rehabilitation plan, which makes getting them to vacate the house difficult,” said Zalke.
Local residents, however, blame the civic authorities.
“The civic body does not keep a tab on irregularities, despite the loss of lives,” said Adhiraj Mane, a local resident. Some blamed the builders’ lobby for stalling the demolition process to save on demolition cost.