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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Maha polls: Mumbadevi grapples with old buildings, problems

mumbai Updated: Oct 18, 2019 01:33 IST
Eeshanpriya M S
Eeshanpriya M S

In July 2019, Kesarbai building in Dongri collapsed, killing 13 people. In August 2017, Bhendi Bazaar’s Husaini building collapsed causing 34 deaths. These disasters sum up the problems of the Mumbadevi Assembly segment, comprising areas of Dongri, Bhendi Bazaar, Pydhoni and Mohammad Ali Road. The area is a web of dilapidated buildings, cessed and private buildings awaiting redevelopment, and unauthorised constructions that have repeatedly posed dangers to the residents of the Mumbadevi constituency.

The promise of solving these problems has been the prime election agenda, a major demand of residents and voters, and a central issue addressed by contesting candidates from Mumbadevi.

The Mumbadevi constituency is represented by a two-time Congress member of legislative Assembly (MLA), Amin Patel, 56, and is considered a Congress stronghold. Until 2009, the area was a BJP stronghold, which was mainly attributed to the scope of the constituency before delimitation.

In 2014, Patel won the elections with a winning margin of 8,513 votes over BJP’s Atul Shah– one of the lowest winning margins in the island city, after Byculla and Mahim. However, Congress’s Milind Deora led by 34,869 votes in the Mumbadevi segment of the Mumbai South Lok Sabha constituency, in the elections five months ago.

Patel is set to contest again from Mumbadevi on a Congress ticket. His competitors are Pandurang Sakpal, 56, from Shiv Sena, and former MLA Bashir Patel from AIMIM. Bashir Patel, who has remained a two-time MLA from the constituency, when it was called Umerkhadi, is a formidable opponent for Patel. The area is dominated by Muslim voters, traditionally supporters of the Congress, but who find some appeal in the AIMIM as well.

Uday Kumar Shiroorkar, a retired officer from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), is also contesting as an independent. As a BMC officer, Shiroorkar headed the B ward, corresponding to areas in the Mumbadevi constituency.

Both cessed and privately owned buildings in Mumbadevi are as old as 100 years and in bad condition. Their redevelopment is stuck for reasons including the small-sized plots they stand on, which makes redevelopment of one building at a time unprofitable for a builder. In case of private buildings, while the structure is owned by one landlord, the residents are all tenants, with no proper documents to claim rehabilitation after redevelopment.

The unchecked unauthorised construction means there are buildings as tall as 14 or 15 floors, constructed without prerequisite permissions from the civic body. Many private buildings opted redevelopment a decade ago, but dropped the work midway owing to lack of funds. In many such cases, residents have moved back to half-built structures.

In the past five years, Amin Patel spent a maximum of his MLA funds on the repair of dilapidated buildings. During his tenure in B ward, Shiroorkar took action against several unauthorised buildings, and has made tackling unauthorised constructions his prime election promise.

Prompted by the death of 13 Mumbaiites in July, the cabinet in September cleared a proposal to ease redevelopment of old cessed and non-cessed buildings, by authorising Mhada to forcibly acquire private buildings, and facilitate cluster redevelopment, if needed.

Sadik Patel, a resident of the Dongri area, whose building was among those vacated by MHADA after Kesarbai collapse, said, “Mhada is giving ₹6 lakh to repair the building, while residents are pitching in ₹10 lakh for the work.”

Amin Patel said, “I have done my best to resolve issues that plague my constituency. It is an ongoing process. All issues are recurring. Rehabilitation and redevelopment, civic problems, health, education, and work will continue.”

Sena’s Sakpal said, “The constituency has maximum illegal constructions, dilapidated buildings and disasters. Illegalities and apathy in redevelopment cannot go on without knowledge of the MLA. This is reason enough for voters to pick me. Last time, the Shiv Sena and BJP were contesting from the area, which split the votes split. This time I will win.”