'Heritage' tag means elderly have to live dangerously

The ‘heritage’ tag has been haunting some in the city. Ever since the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) declared some residential buildings to be of heritage value in 2012, senior citizens in the Dadar, Matunga, King’s Circle areas have to live in constant fear that the building may collapse, as the structures are very old. This is because the BMC will not permit them to conduct the much-needed repair work, since the Heritage committee doesn’t allow any modification of heritage structures.

S Jayaram points to the broken celiing. Pic/Sameer Markande

The buildings were named in the now infamous list under the Five Gardens precinct. Most of them are over 65 years old, and residents always used to get repairs and patch-up jobs done before monsoons to avoid untoward incidents. But, since last year, these people are scared that their homes may tumble any day huge cracks on walls, peeling paint, creaky staircases that may give way any day residents deal with these sights every day, in flats they have always stayed in and have an emotional bond with.

MiD DAY highlights a few structures and the plight of their helpless residents

Building: Narmada Niwas (Built in 1937)
Location: Dr Ambedkar Road, Matunga (East)
Age: About 76 years old

Narmada Niwas, is a three-storey building in Matunga. Inhabitants have already got a structural audit done for it. The audit report suggested that the structure needed urgent repairs, but thanks to the heritage listing, it cannot be done. Residents face a leakage problem and chunks of the ceiling keep falling off every now and then. Inhabitants on the top floor have to wear caps during the monsoons to avoid getting wet. S Jayaraman (74), a resident of the top floor of this building, told this correspondent, “Only my wife and I live in our house.

All our children are abroad. We do not want to leave our country. But, I guess we will be forced to do so, if we do not get permission for redevelopment. Plaster keeps falling off the ceiling. My wife had a narrow escape about 15 days ago when a huge piece came down in the kitchen and in the living room, which is yet to be covered. The Heritage committee is responsible for two senior citizens living in fear every day.”

Report expected early next year
The Afzalpurkar committee, which has been appointed to hear the objections and suggestions of the residents, will submit a report of its findings to the state government in the second week of January 2014 (‘Report on heritage list to be submitted by Jan 2014’, Dec 25). So far, the committee has heard about 750 people and will be inspecting the sites after going through their suggestions. ¬†

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