Home truths: Gutted, but in no mood to move

The 4-5 residents of Abubakar Mansion in Colaba say they will not accept any offer of transit accommodation in smaller houses

For residents of Abubakar Mansion, better known as Metro House, where a massive fire broke out on Thursday, it’s still home, sweet home, regardless of how gutted it may be. They have refused to move out amid rumours that the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) is offering affected residents transit accommodation.

Some residents of Abubakar Mansion moved to relatives’ homes or hotels after the fire broke out, but no one wants to shift to any transit accommodation. Pic/Suresh KarkeraSome residents of Abubakar Mansion moved to relatives’ homes or hotels after the fire broke out, but no one wants to shift to any transit accommodation. Pic/Suresh Karkera

After the blaze was doused late on Thursday, most of the four to five residents of the building spent the night on the streets of Colaba. Although some moved to relatives’ houses and hotels, no one is inclined to shift elsewhere. “We will not go to any other place, regardless of what happens. Not to a small transit home,” clarified a resident from the third floor.

Kavita Shivpuri, another resident of the building, hinted at arson as a ploy to make the tenants move out. “I have heard that the MHADA is planning to accommodate us in some transit 200-sqft homes. Now, I wonder if this was the reason why the fire broke out. I will not leave this place,” she said.

The residents mostly occupy the building’s A-wing, which has no official demarcation. They claimed that their wing was largely unscathed.

But when mid-day yesterday visited the house of Jalal Madiha, a resident on the third floor, it was in a state of complete ruin — soot covered the walls, several belongings were charred beyond recognition and the windows were broken. As Madiha got down to the arduous task of cleaning up, he claimed that all his documents and other essentials were either damaged or strewn around.

‘Got no help’
Shivpuri claimed that no official has come to the residents’ help so far. “The landlord has not even enquired about our well being. Neither has an officer from the Mumbai Port Trust (the lease holder of the building), the MHADA or the BMC come to visit us. Who is responsible for the fire? Over a year ago, we had received a notice from the Mumbai Port Trust, stating that many unauthorised alterations were made to the building. How were these things allowed?
The Port Trust thinks that it’s work was done after sending the notice. But, what next? There was no action. No one wants to take any action.”

Faraz Rahman, an occupant from the fourth floor who has another home in a nearby building, said he seldom stays in this building, and returned after the fire to retrieve some things.

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