mid-day editorial: Time to take down illegal slums

Even after a disastrous fire in 2009, Behrampada continues to laugh in the face of BMC rules, breaking its own record to build multi-storeyed shanties that have reached a steep 80 feet.

A front-page report in this paper stated yesterday that the towering slums of Behrampada, spread over seven acres of land, are now closing in on the Bandra skywalk. In 2009, mid-day had reported how a fire had broken out in the slums after five-storeyed huts mushroomed there, climbing up to 60 feet. It took over 40 hours to control the blaze, as the fire brigade struggled to get through the narrow bylanes. Instead of learning from that disaster, the shanties continue to grow ever higher.

It is shocking that the shanty dwellers are allowed to add floors like this, unchecked by the authorities. But the onus also falls on the shanty dwellers themselves, who prefer to flirt with danger and live precariously, rather than take any kind of precautions. One cannot use the ‘uneducated’ tag as an excuse.

You do not need college degrees to realise just how dangerous this kind of illegal development this is. Those who are adding on to these shanties are also doing so without checking on foundations, so there is always the danger of the shanty caving in.

Human greed being insatiable, the slum dwellers give these additional floors out on rent, and, in a space starved city where going vertical seems to be the only option, these are snapped up quickly and the shanty owners make a tidy sum.

Authorities need to nip this practice in the bud. There has to be great political will, given that these shanties are a major vote bank. There must be a zero tolerance approach to this.

Caving in and relaxing restrictions is counterproductive and shows weakness in dealing with the problem. One day, we might see these shanties rise higher than skyscrapers. A grim prospect, but it is not just a tall tale.

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