BMC declares building dangerous, makes its own men work there

It’s been 18 months since the civic body declared the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Mandai in Fort dilapidated and even put up a notice stating it wouldn’t be responsible if it collapsed; two employees from the BMC’s estate department and six security guards, however, are still made to work there

Eighteen months after the BMC declared one of its five-storey buildings in Fort dilapidated, one of its own departments is putting the lives of eight employees at risk by making them work from there.

Employees walk up to their office on the second floor, passing areas where the ceiling is supported by bamboo sticks
Employees walk up to their office on the second floor, passing areas where the ceiling is supported by bamboo sticks

The building also houses a wholesale fish market on the ground floor, which sees at least 1,500 people selling their wares and shopping there every day, unaware that the upper floors could come crashing down on them any time.

One of the warning notices put up in the building. Pics/Suresh KK
One of the warning notices put up in the building. Pics/Suresh KK

What’s worse, when the BMC employees enter the Chhattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Mandai, they see a large notice put by the civic body’s market department, which clearly states that the building is dilapidated and ‘if any person is injured due to its collapse, the BMC wouldn’t be responsible for it’.

The BMC was supposed to demolish the upper floors of the building and leave only the ground floor standing
The BMC was supposed to demolish the upper floors of the building and leave only the ground floor standing

With their livelihood at stake, however, they have no choice but to walk into their office on the second floor and stay there for their entire workday, every day.

Notice
The five-storey building, which is located close to Crawford Market and used to house a market and offices of various BMC departments, was declared dilapidated by the BMC’s market department in November 2013 and all the civic departments were asked to clear out the building.

A notice was put up by the market department, which said that should any BMC department continue to function from there, that department will bear the responsibility for the loss of life and property. This warning, however, seems to have fallen on deaf ears as far as the estate department is concerned.

Two of the department’s employees still work out of the building and six security guards, who are also employed by the BMC, work there in shifts. The second floor, where the estate department’s office is located, also houses A+ category documents, relating to the properties leased out by the BMC.

Assistant Engineer D B Patil from the estate department said, “The documents in the building belong to the A+ category and are stored in special lockers inside the building. Whenever we need the documents, we send
a staff member to collect them from there. Two staff members are stationed there permanently.”

When mid-day asked him why the employees were still there despite the building being declared dilapidated, he said, “I accept that the building is dangerous, but regarding the transfers you can contact the assistant engineer of market department.”

Nowhere to go
The two employees, who mark their attendance at the BMC headquarters and then come back to work at the building, said that they are only following orders. They said the job is what matters to them the most and the fact that they are functioning from a dangerous structure is secondary.

The six security guards also feel the same way. “It is the question of our job. We can’t ask too many questions,” one of them said, on condition of anonymity. The fishermen said the BMC was supposed to demolish the four storeys so that the ground floor, which houses the market, is not endangered.

They say the upper floors, including the second floor, are in very bad shape and the ceiling is supported by bamboos in some places. Chhaya Thanekar, president, Mumbai Zilla Koli Mahila Vividh Karyakari Sahakari Sanstha Limited, a fisherwomen’s body, said they had met the previous CM and he had asked the BMC to provide electricity and water to the market.

“We had told them that we could move to Crawford Market if they wanted us to. We haven’t been given any other place to function from yet, so how can we move?” she said.

Official speak

Sharad Ughade, Assistant Commissioner, Market Department, BMC
I got the temporary charge of the market just this week. I will look at the structural audit and if the building is indeed dangerous, we will take action against the department which is making people work there

Dilip Naik, MNS Municipal Union leader
I had written to the municipal commissioner about this. If the building is dangerous, why are people still working there? And if the market is able to get electricity and water and the building is not dangerous, why was it vacated?

Laxman Vhatkar, director of engineering services and projects, BMC
We had declared the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Mandai dangerous 18 months ago and we had said only the ground floor, which houses the fish market, could be allowed to stay. We had asked for the other four floors to be demolished and I am not aware how the two people from the estate department are working on the second floor. It is a dangerous building and a notice about the same has already been put up by the BMC.

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