250 families left homeless after 22-year-old Dombivli building develops cracks
Residents of F wing noticed the cracks in their homes after 11 pm on Saturday night and exited their homes in panic even as the fire department, local ward officials, disaster management personnel and police rushed to the spot
Dombivli: At least 250 families in a housing complex in Nilje, Dombivli, were left shelterless on late Saturday night after one of the five wings of Shanti Upvan, a building in the Lodha Heaven complex, developed visible cracks and parts of the base began caving in.
Residents of F wing noticed the cracks in their homes after 11 pm on Saturday night and exited their homes in panic even as the fire department, local ward officials, disaster management personnel and police rushed to the spot.
Shivanand Tiwari, who stays on the ground floor of F wing, told HT that it felt like an earthquake. “There was a loud noise, and dust enveloped the room,” he said. “I immediately rushed out with my wife and two children. I doubt if the building was constructed using standard quality materials, looking at its state in just 22 years.”
While 42 families live in F wing, the local administration, as a precaution, has evacuated the 250-odd families in all five wings. Bharat Pawar, ward officer of KDMC, said, “The pillar of F wing has developed cracks, and part of the base of the building has caved in. We learnt that the builder had started repair work in the building but we are still verifying this. The F wing is in a dangerous state, and we will have to demolish it.”
Asked if the building was in the corporation’s list of dangerous buildings, Pawar said, “The building is just 22 years old. Those that are more than 30 years old are usually listed as dangerous after inspection. This building was not listed as one.”
Namdeo Chaudhari, chief fire officer, Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) said that there were no casualties or injured people. “Residents have been evacuated safely and people have been asked to stay away from the complex for safety reasons,” he said. “We are taking all the requisite measures.”
After the incident, the local administration asked residents to take shelter in a nearby civic school and temples. However, many residents chose to go to their relatives’ places nearby.
Upset residents on Sunday evening tried to retrieve the valuables and belongings in their homes, but KDMC officials did not allow them to enter the complex. “We cannot allow F wing residents into their homes, as the structure is very dangerous and needs to be demolished,” said Pawar. “We may allow other residents to enter their homes once to get their belongings on Monday morning.”
Sources from the locality claimed that Shanti Upvan housing society was built in 1998 by a construction company belonging to a local elected representative under the guidance of a wealthy developer. Residents blamed the developer for the substandard quality of construction.
Rajendra Lodha, the developer, in turn blamed the society’s managing committee for the poor condition of the building. “The building has been completed and handed over to the society,” he said. “The society has not carried out any maintenance to date, which is why it is not in good condition. I have nothing to do with the building now, as all handover formalities were completed long ago.”
Macrotech Developers Ltd denied any association with the Dombivli society. “The building Shanti Upvan has not been developed by Lodha / Macrotech Developers and we are not associated with the development called ‘Lodha Heaven’ which was developed 20-plus years ago,” said the company spokesperson. “We sympathise with the residents and are open to extending any assistance that may be required on humanitarian grounds.”
Residents stage protest
After the evacuation on Sunday, angry residents gathered near the building and staged a protest, demanding that the builder meet them. “The builder has not shown his face after the incident,” said Ratan Tambe, former secretary of D Wing. “We believe that the building was not built with quality materials and that is why it is in such bad shape in just 22 years. The society did carry out repairs from time to time. This incident proves that even such big complexes are not safe due to substandard work by builders.”
Worry over SSC exams
The ongoing Class 10 board exams have added to the worries of residents. On Sunday, they waited for the chance to get back to their homes and collect their children’s books and hall tickets. Some residents, who were unable to take their pets along when they left, also went inside again to pick them up. Kishor Andhalkar from the Dombivli disaster management team said that residents from other wings of the society were allowed to go in accompanied by officials. “Only F Wing residents were not allowed as it was very risky,” he said.
RERA provision for defect liability
Although the building was constructed more than 20 years ago, and the provisions of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA) 2016 may not be applicable, RERA has a defect liability clause which places the onus of any defect liability on the promoter even after possession. However, the liability period ends five years after the home buyer gets possession. The Act says that if the home buyer brings the defects to the notice of the promoter but the latter does not rectify it within 30 days, the home buyer is entitled to appropriate compensation.