It has been a year since three explosions at Zaveri Bazaar, Opera House and Dadar killed 27 and injured 127 others. But stoic as Mumbai and its people are, the business houses in these areas, which primarily deal in gold and diamond jewellery, maintain the same fervour. When HT visited these blast spots, the security apparatus in the packed by-lanes at Zaveri Bazaar and Opera House seemed visibly tighter. Sadly, the initiative to step up security has not come from the state government. Instead, local associations and co-operative societies took it upon themselves to sensitise the area, and install closed-circuit television cameras.
The hustle and bustle at this bazaar remains unchanged, but its famous ‘khau galli’ — with food stalls and roadside vendors — is a place transformed. The hawkers and roadside food stalls have been asked to leave the area and parking has been banned.
Business houses and associations that control the gold business in the area have ensured it is under the cover of 38 CCTVs. Kumar Jain, vice president of the Mumbai Jewellers’ Association in Zaveri Bazar said: “Security of the area has been our responsibility as no authority has ever taken any step in that direction.”
The government has barricaded the area, and placed policemen at major entry points to ensure no vehicles are parked in the locality. But this has become a hindrance to business. The associations had drawn up a plan to operate ‘golf carts’ in the area to ease commuting. Jain said, “Due to non-availability of permissions, the project is in limbo.”
There has been considerable change in the area. Vehicles now cannot be parked in the by-lanes that approach the Panchratna building, Prasad Chambers and Shreeji Chambers — from where a majority of the business houses operate. The area has also been provided a cover with 76 CCTVs. However, some businessmen do not feel secure. Kaushik Navadiya, a diamond trader, said: “There are three approach lanes which lead to these buildings, but there is no set up-to scan who is entering the area. CCTV cameras do not provide a foolproof security. The mere presence of policemen doesn’t assure us of anything.” Naresh Mehta, secretary of the Panchratna Cooperative Housing Society, said: “We asked the BMC for permission to set up gates on the entrances of the three roads but there has been no move.”
Kamil Navadiya, 21, whose father was killed in the blast here, is still awaiting a compensation of Rs 3 lakh from the Centre. “We were told the money would be sent to the city collector, following which it would reach us,” said Navadiya.
Locals here seem to have forgotten about last year’s explosion, except for a few who were in close proximity to the blast site and were injured. And security continues to remain lax. Sadashiv Kamble, 38, a cobbler, remembers the day clearly. “Glass pieces from a damaged car had pierced my body. I am yet to receive the Rs50,000 compensation. I incurred heavy losses as my stall was badly damaged.” Kiran Dayale, 58, who runs a footwear stall near the blast site, remembers the fateful day too. He said: “The day taught us lessons about being responsible and alert.”