The lives of four people who died in the Rahim Manzil collapse could have been saved if the 80-year-old building had been repaired on time.
The work order for repair of the building, which is under Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) jurisdiction as it is a cessed structure, was issued on January 21. However, due to resistance from the tenants and no clear agreement with the owner, the work never started.
The building was last repaired in 1981. A MHADA survey said the rear of the building was the most dilapidated and repairs were sanctioned for that portion. However, on Thursday, it was the front that collapsed.
“It is surprising that the surveyors didn’t notice the cracks developing inside the load-bearing walls,” said a MHADA official at the spot on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
MHADA budgeted Rs 5 lakh for the repairs and asked tenants to raise funds too.
“We have a cap on the amount we can spend on a cessed building. If the estimate exceeds that cap, the rest must be given by the tenants or the owner,” said the official.
It’s the same story across Mumbai’s 16,000 cessed buildings; most redevelopment schemes introduced by the government are yet to take off.
The most common problem is that the tenants and owners can’t agree on the redevelopment terms. The law says that 70% of the tenants must agree to the redevelopment. The work is carried out under Section 33 (7) of the Development Control Rule, which governs redevelopment of dilapidated and cessed buildings, and Section 33 (9), which governs cluster development.
The cluster development scheme was introduced in 2009 and involves overall infrastructure development of an area instead of revamping individual structures. This scheme has been a virtual non-starter; only one project has taken off so far.
Barwadia Building, which adjoins Rahim Manzil, is a case in point. Its redevelopment has been stuck due to a feud between the owners and the developer. Its residents were vacated from the structure two years ago.
“After MHADA gave us transit camp accommodation, we moved out. But the redevelopment has not progressed at all. Our families are stuck in the transit camp at Dharavi,” said Abdul Rashid, a resident of Barwadia building.
Residents of many dilapidated buildings also oppose redevelopment because they don’t want to shift to transit camps in areas such as Dharavi or Sion.
“The scheme’s benefits did nothing for locals in our area. There have been several instances of tenants languishing in filthy transit camps for years and there are families that have been duped by builders. This is why the scheme has few takers,” said Ahmed Khatri, a resident of Nizam street, which has over 10 dilapidated cessed buildings.
Now the area will be surveyed again to identify dangerous buildings.
“A pre-monsoon survey will begin soon,” said MHADA Executive Engineer DP Shirwalkar.
In early April, a joint survey will be initiated by MHADA and the civic body, after which they will identify and issue notices to buildings in a dangerous condition. If the building is found to be in a very dangerous state, the residents will be issued evacuation notices.