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Mumbai: After 5-year fight, BIT residents lose turf

Locals resorted to blocking the road and pleading, but nothing worked when the BMC evicted them from their 94-year-old buildings

For the last five years, residents of Bombay Improvement Trust (BIT) chawls in Tadvad, Mazgaon, had put up a tough fight against eviction. Delayed court proceedings had granted them additional reprieve. But yesterday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and police officials put an end to the relief by evicting residents of the buildings that were declared unfit to live in by the Supreme Court in 2011.

Chawl residents took to the streets and asked the BMC officials to move them to a nearby transit camp. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Chawl residents took to the streets and asked the BMC officials to move them to a nearby transit camp. Pics/Bipin Kokate

The outcry
The residents, though, didn’t go down without a last fight. The 220 families residing in buildings 14, 15 and 16, built by the British in 1922 for migrant workers, weren’t ready to leave their houses. A mob of residents tried its best to stop the civic officials from entering the buildings. When that didn’t work, they began shouting and crying while requesting the police not to drive them out of their homes. But the civic officials managed to cut the electricity and water supply to the building. The families then resorted to blocking the road near the Mazgaon court to protest the eviction drive. But the police were able to clear the road in an hour and resume the flow of traffic.

Not ready to leave their houses, people cried while requesting cops to stop the drive
Not ready to leave their houses, people cried while requesting cops to stop the drive

Shekhar Jhadhav, a tutor in the chawl, asked, “When, a month ago, the demolition of building no.3 on the same grounds required the use of heavy machinery, how is the structure dilapidated?”

The residents even tried blocking the road in protest
The residents even tried blocking the road in protest

‘Not Mahul’
According to the apex court’s order, the families are to be shifted to Mahul, 20 km away, but residents have refused to be rehabilitated that far.

Demanding a transit camp 3 km from their Tadvad buildings, Bhavna Maru, a resident of the chawl, said, “I am a homemaker and my kids, aged 5 and 6, attend an English-medium school here. There is no good school available in Mahul, and it’s not safe for women and children to step out of the house there after dark.”

The residents also asked the BMC officials to give them in writing when they can move back into their redeveloped chawls, but the only answer they got was “around three years”. “We have been asking BMC officials to give us a date by when they will let us move back here in writing, but we haven’t got any response other than that it will take three years or so,” said Shantalji Mehta, another resident.

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