Mumbai: Firemen receive BMC notice to vacate residences, but won't budge

Civic body wants residential quarters at a few dilapidated fire stations to be cleared, but firemen don’t want to move out as renovation work is yet to start at the facilities which have already been vacated

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) wants firemen to move out of their residences in the brigade’s dilapidated fire stations, ostensibly for renovation work. But the firemen want to stay put, due to the civic body’s complete neglect of the upkeep of these vital fire stations in the past.

The Mandvi fire station was vacated in 2013. It is still not operational, and no renovation work has been carried out
The Mandvi fire station was vacated in 2013. It is still not operational, and no renovation work has been carried out

In 2013, families of firemen from Mandvi fire station were told by BMC to relocate to various other localities across Mumbai, because it was to carry out renovation work on the dilapidated structure. But the civic body has not initiated any renovation work over the past two years the Mandvi station has been completely abandoned.

Similarly, the residential quarters at the Byculla station (which had 35 families staying there) were partially cleared in 2013, but the structure is still awaiting renovation.

Fresh missive
In the first week of May, the BMC sent notices to firemen from five more stations across the city, asking them to move out their families from these facilities. This decision was based on a structural audit that the civic body had conducted in 2013 BMC had decided that the residential quarters at Colaba, Memonwada, Rawli Camp, Indira Dock and Marol have to be vacated.

Firemen speak
However, firemen have refused to vacate these properties, saying that they would continue to stay in these stations on their own risk. “We were being relocated to Mahul from our original residence. We would’ve agreed, had the authorities chosen a nearby place for our relocation and saved us the inconvenience,” said a fireman from Memonwada.

“It’s been two years since the Byculla staff quarters was supposed to be under renovation, but the actual repair work is yet to start. All you can see is bamboos propping up structures. We were forced to leave immediately on Diwali (2013). And since the structure was announced to be dilapidated, why have the authorities yet to start work?” asked a fireman, on the condition of anonymity.

According to another, “There are rooms available at every fire station building slated to be vacated. The authorities need not relocate all the families together. They can shift the families to empty rooms and undertake phase-wise renovation. Why shift all the families together with no certainty of relocation?”

Union speak
Sunil Chitnis, general secretary of the firemen’s labour union Mumbai Agnishaman Dal Ladhau Kamgar Sena told mid-day, “The letters talking about total relocation make no sense. If the authorities aren’t going to rebuild the entire structure, why shift all the families together? We have vacant rooms they can shift the families floor-wise and undertake the construction accordingly.”

The other side
PS Rahandale, acting chief fire officer, said that the decision was made in the best interest of his firemen.

“The union only points fingers at the work but are they ready to give me in writing that if any casualty takes place they will be responsible for them? Currently, we are undertaking the renovation in Colaba and Bhendibazar phase-wise, but the rest of the buildings are totally dilapidated and families need to be relocated for renovation.

Whatever’s done, it is in the interest of the fire-fighters,” said Rahandale. When mid-day asked him about the delay in the renovation at Byculla and Mandvi fire stations, he said that all the formalities had been completed by the fire department.

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