A cloud of sorrow hangs over the Campa Cola compound, as residents of the upper floors live with the dread of losing their homes a little over a month later.
About 96 flats in the compound will be demolished on November 11, leaving scores of residents homeless. The residents have knocked on every door in search of relief, only to have their hopes dashed each time.
In the calm of despair, they are even unhappy with the Supreme Court’s extension of the earlier demolition date of October 1 to November 11, as they don’t wish to live so long in fear and anxiety.
Almost 40 per cent of the residents in the 96 doomed flats have already moved out, some returning to their native places, or to live with their children. The rest, who are still staying in the upper floors of the seven buildings, are now praying for a miracle in the form of a government intervention, as they have nowhere to go and cannot afford to pay the rent in Worli area.
MiD DAY spoke to a few of the families living under the sentence of impending homelessness at the Campa Cola compound.
“We have absolutely nowhere to go. All my life’s savings as well as that of my daughter’s were spent buying this house, which will be demolished soon,” said Asha Andiyal (90). Asha is a retired physiotherapist and has been living with her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in the apartment since 1990. Having pinned all their hopes for the future on this house when they booked it in 1985, they still can’t come to terms with the fact that they will have to leave it soon.
Once the flat is demolished, the family will be rendered homeless – Asha’s granddaughter is married and the only option is to move into her house for some days while they look for a rented place. Asha’s daughter Mrunalini said that the move will make matters difficult, as they already eke out an existence on pensions. They also have to look for a garage or a relative’s home to stash their belongings, as they cannot move them all into the granddaughter’s home.
Mrunalini said, “As a former employee of the BMC, I know well that there are a lot of problems in the system. I am very anxious for my mother, as she is old. Where do I take her? We had poured in all our life’s savings into this place, and cannot afford even a rented house on the meagre pension.”
“When we were in our early 40s, we managed to buy our only house in this city – and now we are packing our belongings to shift to Rajasthan. At this age we cannot afford to even rent a house, leave alone buy one,” said CR Mohta (66), a resident of one of the doomed apartments.
Over the years, the Mohta couple have spent all their savings on their daughters’ education and weddings, and are worried that the cost of moving back to Rajasthan and fighting court cases would drain their remaining savings, leaving them with nothing for their advanced years.
For the Mohtas, what hurts most is living on the sixth floor of a building where the first five are legal.
They now have no option but to move back to Rajasthan, where real estate is more affordable.
Their daughters are settled abroad. Most of their belongings have been packed and moved to a garage, while the furniture will be sold soon.
Raju Mohta (62) said, “This is the most important thing that I had apart from my family, and now it is being taken from us. Being senior citizens, it is difficult for us to start from scratch again. We had thought our savings would be sufficient, but they will be spent in the big move and the court case. I have no clue how to provide for our old age after this.”
As they live out of boxes, the Jain family is busy hunting for a home in Worli so that their son Siddhant’s education is not affected. Surendar Jain complained that realty rates in Worli are exorbitant and a move to the suburbs is not an option, as their son’s schooling would suffer.
“There are no apartments available in my budget and I haven’t been able to find anything good. I will be leaving this house as and when I can find another apartment, as most of my belongings are packed. I have an aged person living at home and we can’t keep moving because of someone else’s mistake. We did not get any compensation and we deserve it. I am worried that we will have to move to some place like Borivli, and that my 15-year-old son will have to travel far every day on crowded trains for school,” said Surendar.
All Atul Hirawat wanted was to be close to his parents, so he had bought an apartment in the building next to theirs at Campa Cola. Now, it turns out that his investment is of zero value, as both his home on the 16th floor of Orchid building and his father’s apartment on the seventh floor of the adjacent building are on the list of apartments that will be demolished. Atul, who has two sons, is now running pillar to post to find a home nearby, as they cannot cause any problem to their sons’ education.
Atul said, “Starting from scratch at 40 is very difficult. We had got things in place just recently and now this goes and happens. We have nowhere to go and the builders should compensate us, as it is no fault of ours. We are the victims who are facing heavy losses.”
What makes the Mehta family’s situation more poignant is the fact that they are still in the process of paying off the loan they had taken to purchase their home at the Campa Cola compound – a home that will soon be toppled by bull-dozers.
The family, which has been staying here since the early ’90s, is praying that the loans are paid off soon.
Nandini Mehta said, “We have become victims of some bureaucrats who did not do their work or builders who fooled us to garner more profits. We are still paying the loan on this apartment and have Rs 15 lakh left, which we have to pay even though our home will be taken away from us. All this is just a hindrance to my daughter, who is in Std XII. I cannot let her education suffer, so I have sent her to my mother’s home.”
The Supreme Court had ordered demolition of the illegal floors of the Campa Cola buildings on February 27 and prohibited residents from approaching any government or political body for regularising the structures. The SC, however, relented and passed a stay order on May 2, giving residents five months time to vacate.
On September 26, the High Court had dismissed a writ petition by the residents, seeking the regularisation of the 35 illegal floors. But after much pleading with the SC to allow them to approach the BMC for getting hold of the retainable area, the SC put off the demolition to November 11.
Total number of floors to be demolished from the seven buildings
Stacking up the numbers
Of the seven buildings facing partial demolition:
2 have 17 and 20 floors respectively
2 have 7 floors
3 have 6 floors