It was lunch time but Kamathipura resident Vinod Parmar could barely concentrate on what he was eating. The reason—the monsoon season has arrived and the building he and many others live in is so dilapidated, that it could collapse any time.
“We cannot even have our food in peace. We live in constant fear that our building will collapse,” rued Parmar, a resident of Building no 59 on 3rd lane, Kamathipura.
This fear envelops not just Kamathipura but many old structures spread across Mumbai, especially in the island city. According to Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada), there are approximately 14,995 structures constructed before 1940 which have been deemed as dilapidated. This year Mhada has prepared a list of eight buildings which have been termed extremely dangerous. “We have identified these eight structures and have made arrangements for the tenants to stay in the transit camps built at Dharavi,” said Sachin Ahir, minister of state for housing. He said there is enough space to accommodate the 443 tenants staying in these buildings. These chawls are located in places like Girgaum, Mazagaon, Kamathipura, Khetwadi and Temkar Road.
However, residents are reluctant to shift to the transit camps. “We have seen thousands languishing for years in dirty transit camps,” said Shazia, a tenant of Botawala Chawl, Mazagaon. The residents of these buildings face perennial problems like leaking drains and irregular water supply, apart from unhygienic environs. Mohammad Arshad, social activist, said: “Mhada should have taken up the revamp of these buildings earlier.”
The state has said it will act firmly against errant tenants. “We would like the tenants to shift peacefully, but if they don’t, we will have to forcibly evict them,” Ahir said.
Interview : Sachin Ahir
‘443 families will be shifted’
State minister for housing Sachin Ahir says the state government survey has identified 14,995 buildings as dilapidated. Excerpts from an interview:
What is the current status of dilapidated buildings in the city?
We have identified eight buildings which are in an extremely dangerous condition. Around 443 families live in these buildings and we have asked them to shift to transit camps. We have also started a helpline to assist these people.
But people seem to be apprehensive about shifting to Mhada’s transit camps.
We have a large number of tenements in the transit camps located in Dharavi and they are of good quality. In addition, we assure them that they can shift back to their original houses after reconstruction or repairs are completed.
What happens if people refuse to leave their homes?
We will be forced to evict them forcibly. We can’t allow a section of the people to put the lives of other residents in danger.
Some tenants have said their structures are stable and refuse to move out.
In such a case, they should approach the courts and give an affidavit taking responsibility for any collapses.
Why does the state always get into action only during the monsoon?
This inspection exercise is done throughout the year and it is pursued vigorously during the rains. The rainy season sees collapses and hence we request people to shift to safer shelters.
What about the other old buildings in the city? Are you sure they will not collapse?
Our survey has identified 14,995 buildings as dilapidated as they are all pre-1940 structures. No one can predict which building may collapse and when.