Kalbadevi fire: Fate of Narayan Niwas hangs in the balance

The residents and merchants of Narayan Niwas have not been allowed to enter it since the fire; the building has developed cracks after the collapse of Gokul Niwas, the impact of the fire, and water used to douse it

The fire that destroyed Gokul Niwas has left residents and merchants of not just that building in turmoil, but that of a neighbouring building as well.

The bamboos being put up in front of Narayan Niwas, which is next to Gokul Niwas
The bamboos being put up in front of Narayan Niwas, which is next to Gokul Niwas

The residents of Narayan Niwas, the building adjacent to Gokul Niwas, have been stuck outside their homes in the same clothes they were wearing since the fire started on Saturday evening. They have not been allowed inside after their building developed cracks. Yesterday, MHADA officially asked them to vacate the structure, which is also over 50 years old.

The cracks developed on the building after the fire and collapse of Gokul Niwas
The cracks developed on the building after the fire and collapse of Gokul Niwas

The three-storey cessed building, consisting of 15 shops and three residences, has developed cracks due to the collapse of Gokul Niwas, as well as the force of the water used to douse the fire and the impact of the fire itself.

Stuck outside
As soon as the residents and merchants saw the neighbouring building going up in flames, they had locked their shops and homes and rushed out of the building.

“When the fire started, we all rushed outside immediately. It has been four days and they are still not letting us in,” said Ranjana Tanna, a resident of the second floor of Narayan Niwas. “I stay alone in the building. Today my son has come from Surat. All these days, I was stuck outside alone”, added Tanna.

Ranjana Tanna, one of the residents, and her son Prakash
Ranjana Tanna, one of the residents, and her son Prakash

The merchants, who work in the building, and mainly own sari shops, are upset with the loss and damages that will be sustained by their sari stocks if they’re kept wet for many days. “We haven’t been let inside since the fire was doused. The water has entered our building as well, and all our materials are now soaked. If we do not go in soon and remove the materials, they will be damaged beyond repair,” said Sanjay Abhani (45) who has a shop on the first floor.

Officially told to vacate
On Monday night, MHADA officially asked the people to vacate the building, and on Tuesday morning bamboos were being put up around it. After the bamboo frame is put up, an inspection will be carried out to find whether the building is dangerous. If it is found to be so, then the residents and merchants will be let in one by one to take their belongings. However, the construction of the bamboo frame was stopped by Tuesday afternoon.

The merchants who work in shops in Narayan Niwas building
The merchants who work in shops in Narayan Niwas building

The MHADA contractor who is responsible for the installation of the bamboo frame said, “I have been instructed by MHADA to stop the work. I don’t know why.”

Prakash Tanna, son of Ranjana Tanna, said, “When we ask BEST workers when we will be allowed in, they say that our duty is to re-establish electricity, which can be done only once the waterlogging inside is cleared. And when we asked the MHADA workers, they said that only once the bamboo work is completed and the building investigations are carried out will you be allowed inside. But they have stopped installing the bamboos and are not giving us any reason for this”.

The owner of Narayan Niwas, Suketu Majithia, a pharma and real estate businessman from Gamdevi said, “We had a meeting with MLA Raj Purohit on Monday, and he instructed MHADA to put up the bamboos at the earliest so that an engineer can inspect the building condition. After the inspection, I shall abide by whatever the BMC and MHADA say.”

Officialspeak
MHADA PRO Vaishali Sandansingh, when asked why the bamboo installation was stopped and when people will be allowed into the building, said, “I haven’t been able to contact the concerned engineer of that area. As soon as I get in touch, I’ll let you know.”

Power restored

The electricity supply to almost the entire area has been restored, and the BEST has strictly instructed the occupants of buildings near the Gokul Niwas site to avoid using air conditioners. They said the supply to certain buildings which are still in darkness will be restored at the earliest.

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