Building a safer future for Mumbai residents

Yet another building collapsed on Tuesday, leading to the loss of more lives. This time as well, officials said residents had been warned of the danger but continued to live there anyway.

Yesterday, this paper carried a story about how the building crash in Thane killed 12 people and wiped out two families in the process. Officials said the building’s redevelopment had been pending for a long time. The Thane City Mayor also mentioned that there are a total of 2,600 dilapidated buildings, of which 58 are in a very dangerous condition. Of those 58, however, only 36 have been vacated and are undergoing demolition.

It is no secret that it can take years for redevelopments to take off. The Dharavi project, for instance, has been held up for the last 15-odd years. In Andheri, many old row houses had been demolished by builders, but all of a sudden, the government changed its policy, bringing the redevelopment to a standstill. This prolonged delay and uncertainty is what has led to a fear that if residents were to vacate building for redevelopment and shift to transit camps in the meantime, they might never be able to return to their own homes. This is why many continue to live on in crumbling buildings, fully aware of the risks.

The government must streamline the process, especially at the municipality level, where files are passed for building construction. A single window should be started for swift clearance of files so redevelopment can commence for all old buildings falling to pieces. Files should be digitalized and a deadline should be set, so that the officials can be held accountable if a file stays on one table for more than a particular period of time. This will make the system more efficient, and also lead to a drop in corruption.

With files being passed faster, construction will also begin quicker. This will instill faith amongst residents, who will then easily vacate buildings that need redevelopment. Faster and better governance can save lives, and it’s high time the government realises that.

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