15K lives at stake in 1.8K illegal buildings in Maharshtra’s Bhiwandi
On Saturday, fourth floor of one such illegal building in Shantinagar, collapsed, killing two and injuring five. This is the second case of an illegal building collapsing this year.Updated: Aug 25, 2019 03:01 IST
Around 15,000 people reside in the 1,876 illegal structures that have cropped up in Bhiwandi since 2010. While the Bhiwandi civic body has failed to set up a stringent complaint mechanism despite a 2017 court order, activists said such illegal buildings are built within months, using sub-standard materials, to cater to the large number of people who come to the city in search of work and look for cheap housing.
On Saturday, the fourth floor of one such illegal building in Piranipada, Shantinagar, collapsed, killing two people and injuring five others. This is the second case of an illegal building collapsing in Bhiwandi this year; a nine-year-old girl had died on June 26, when part of the roof of an unauthorised ground-plus-two-storey structure collapsed on her. “These buildings are built in just six months. Some of them are built over chawls, which are old. Very sub-standard materials are used to complete the work quickly. And within days of completion, the rooms are rented out to families looking for affordable housing,” said Manohar Konka, a 34-year-old social activist, adding the builders do not give enough time for the constructions to strengthen.
Ameed Ansari, a 35-year-old resident of Shantinagar, said people come to Bhiwandi in search of jobs and mostly live on rent. “Hence, they do not check if the building they live in are safe or legal,” he said. While 1 bedroom-hall-kitchen (BHK) flats in such illegal buildings are given on rent for Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 5,000, 2BHK flats are rented out for Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 6,000, said Konde. “Shantinagar is one of the main areas with illegal structures built in narrow lanes.”
Of the 1,876 illegal structures that have come up since 2010, the civic body has demolished only 226 in the past nine years. In 2017, RTI activist Arvind Jaiswar had filed a petition against the Bhiwandi-Nizampur City Municipal Corporation (BNCMC) seeking action against illegal constructions. Responding to several such petitions, in April 2017, the court had asked the BNCMC to set up a grievance redressal mechanism within a month. The court had directed the civic body to survey illegal structures in a phase-wise manner, fill up the posts of officers required for taking action, and set up a toll-free helpline to register complaints. All of these details were to be published on the BNCMC website. “None of the court orders has been followed. Illegal constructions keep mushrooming. BNCMC has appointed an officer to deal with the issue, but lacks a mechanism to initiate stringent action,” said Jaiswar.
BNCMC commissioner Ashok Rankhamb, however, said they have been acting against illegal and unsafe buildings by sending them notices. “We’ve also razed some buildings. The conflict between residents and builders is the main hurdle. We have decided to take strict measures against buildings that are extremely unsafe, with a priority to evacuate residents first.”