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Garib Nagar can't afford another fire

In March 2011, when a fire broke out at Bandra’s Garib Nagar slum which has 2,000 shanties, it was the makeshift material of the houses that played a vital role in saving lives. Today, the slum boasts of pucca homes made of bricks, strong walls and towers of three floors, which will make rescue operations difficult in case of another fire.

Garib Nagar slum
Garib Nagar slum area as it stands today, with two to three storey houses made of pucca brick walls

Pucca houses
Immediately after the fire in 2011, various groups provided temporary housing materials like ply and iron rods to erect homes. Ruhul Haq had distributed ply and iron angles. “Now those materials has been discarded. They have erected pucca homes with bricks and stones. In case of a fire, the 10,000 dwellers won’t have an easy exit like last time.

There’s no proper exit route in case of a fire,” he said, adding that breaking those walls is not an easy task. Deputy fire officer, Western, V Quwaiskar, agrees. “The shanties are too high for people to escape. It will be difficult to carry out rescue operations,” he said.

When the incident occurred, the Railways, which owns the land, had announced they would see to it that their land is protected from the rising slums. When the land adjacent to the slum went for auction, bidders backed out citing the presence of slums. This caused heavy revenue loss to the Railways. However, nothing concrete has been done so far.

Sandeep Silas, divisional railway manager, Western Railway, said, “Getting rid of slums needs political will. We are losing out on land revenue, but there’s an urgent need of coordination between the central and state government.” 

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