When the owner of Tree House pre-school in Jogeshwari asked the officials to defer the demolition so that the 150 tiny tots, aged 2-5, don’t get scared, an official allegedly said, ‘What do I care? They are not my kids’
Just days after razing a cop’s shanty in Andheri (East) and forcing his son to study for his ongoing exams amid the ruins of his house, the BMC used its bulldozers to raze the compound wall of a pre-school yesterday afternoon, with the tiny tots still inside the school building.
A little boy walks near the wall of his school, which was reduced to rubble. Pics/Khushnum Bhandari
What’s worse, when the school’s owner asked the BMC officials to at least defer the demolition until the 150-odd kids, aged 2-5, went home, an official allegedly told him, “What do I care? They are not my kids.”
The horror and confusion was evident on this tiny tot’s face when he saw what had become of the school’s boundary wall
The BMC has been planning to raze certain parts, mostly the compound walls, of buildings on Patel Estate road, which is parallel to Jogeshwari station, to widen it and ensure smooth movement of traffic. Accordingly, the civic body had given the owners of the buildings notices in April.
The school’s display boards lie amid the rubble
Residents claimed that was the only notice they received and they had replied to it, but had not heard back from the BMC since. They said the BMC had not even done the physical marking to help the residents understand till where their property was going to be used up which is mandatory before the demolition.
The BMC is also supposed to give the owners a certificate stating that their property was used for road widening, which they can then use to claim extra FSI on the remaining land. Residents claim none of this was done.
Yesterday afternoon, BMC officials showed up unannounced on the road with a bulldozer and demolished the compound walls of the pre-school, a hostel and a bungalow. Had the residents not managed to stop them, they would have probably razed the walls of many more buildings.
About 150 children below the age of five were studying at the Tree House pre-school when the BMC officials proceeded to roll a JCB over the compound wall.
50 college students, migrants from outside Maharashtra, who live at Mahavir Educational & Research Trust Hostel beside the school, panicked when they saw the compound wall of their building being demolished and called up the trust office.
The owner of the bungalow told mid-day that he wanted to co-operate and had asked for time to at least dismantle the iron grill at the gate for use later, but was prevented from doing even that. The residents of surrounding area called the Amboli police station and the walls of the other buildings were saved only when the police intervened.
Owner of the pre-school
We are in a state of shock. We didn’t know what was happening and they demolished the wall during school hours. There were children inside and, hence, we requested them to come later but the reply we got was even more shocking. When I told an official that the kids would be scared, he said, ‘What do I care? They are not my kids’. If we had been given intimation of the demolition, we would have kept the school shut on Monday.
The BMC officials’ behaviour was appalling. They should have known that little children would be inside the school and should have at least stopped when they were informed that classes were on. I fear for the safety of the kids now, as they are directly exposed to the road without a gate or a compound wall to protect them. If there are development plans, at least give time to the citizens to make appropriate arrangements.
It wasn’t fair on the part of the BMC to start demolishing structures without prior intimation. When we got the notice in April, we had informed the BMC that we would like to cooperate, but this is no way of getting our cooperation. No physical marking was done and I wasn’t even given time to dismantle the gate and make other security arrangements before my wall was demolished
The other side
When mid-day contacted Parag Masurkar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, K-West ward, he said, “I was informed that a fresh notice was given to the residents about a month ago and, if that is not the case, I will have to check with the concerned Assistant Engineer and get back to you tomorrow.”