The area around the defunct Strand Cinema at Colaba is a mix of residential and commercial establishments. Office spaces, government buildings, cafes and restaurants nuzzle against residential structures. Now, several residents in what is popularly known as the Strandmarg area (though Strand is replaced by Kwality head honcho Ravi Ghai’s office complex) have raised a red flag about unfinished work on an Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) on Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, close to a Dominos Pizza outlet in the vicinity.
Colabawallahs as they are colloquially known, say the building work has been in limbo for months now, due to unknown reasons. The debris from the stalled work is posing a problem for residents who say they can see bandicoots scurrying about amongst the construction work, it is only, “A matter of time, before our building is infested with rats,” says Mohini Mansion building inhabitant Kavita Gidwani. Another lady, Gitu Shahani adds, “The main problem is mosquitoes because of the debris and stagnant water that is bound to collect in this season. Besides, we also need to know what is happening to this building. We heard it was going through some structural repairs and renovation, now, but, we have noticed work is at a standstill for several months.”
Like Shahani, most people feel that they have a stake in the neighbourhood and they need to know what is the problem with the building, and why there is no progress. Asks Ajay Multani, honorary secretary of Strandmarg Association, the body that represents 21 buildings in the area and whose committee members have taken up the matter with vigour, “Are we waiting for an outbreak of malaria in the area?” There is no official at the site who can enlighten residents about what is the status quo of the ESIC. Most of them also ask, “Even if the work has been held up, why has this accumulated debris not been cleared up for so many months? Somebody needs to take responsibility for that, let us know who it is.
Gidwani added that on the past weekend, “I saw bricks being thrown from the top of the building below, we also have loads of dust. We are unable to open our windows because of all this dust flying around.” Says Gopal Punjwani of the adjacent building, Candy Castle and Strandmarg committee member, “Unfortunately we seem to be caught in the crossfire between this building and the problem.” Ignorance is certainly not bliss for Naresh Sadhwani, Colaba resident and Strandmarg secretary who asks, “Should they at least not put up a board at the site, informing us about what exactly is going on with the building? We need some answers.”
Residents say that in the absence of any solid information, they rely on the local buzz, which says that the ESIC has shifted to Marine Lines. Yet, there are worry lines on foreheads in that South Mumbai corner, because they believe these repairs in limbo have resulted in unhygienic conditions. Monsoon also means puddles and muddy water, ideal for mosquitoes.
There has been no word on a letter sent to civic authorities about the state of the building. The letter has been sent by Advocate Prem S Gidwani and states in brief:
Sub: Demolition of portion of your building and debris lying there since the past so many months Causing nuisance and becoming health hazard
It goes on to state: Under the instructions and on behalf of my clients, The Colaba Co-Operative Housing Society Ltd., having their office at Mohini Mansion, Plot No 10, Strand Road, I have to address you as under:
1. My client states that my clients’ building known as Mohini Mansion is located behind on the eastern side of your building.
2. My client states that about six months back or more a portion of your above said building, presently south east portion of your building, has been demolished and the debris of the said demolition is lying in your building compound and the same has not been removed inspite of several oral requests made by my client. On account of non-removal of debris lying in your building, the members of my clients’ society are facing untold hardship on account of mosquitoes and now with the threat of monsoon, the situation is going to get worse and the fear of malaria is also hurting the members of my clients’ society.”
It adds that the debris needs to be cleared at once.
As if to buttress their concern, the letter also has photographic evidence of the building with its bamboos and the accumulated debris, awaiting clearance.
Says Multani, “I have spok en to the ‘A’ ward official Kshirsagar about the matter. He was concerned and like always co-operated with us. He said he does not have the authority to remove the debris though but did say he would look into the matter. “
D Kshirsagar said when asked about the building, “I will study the matter in detail. Let me understand the issue. I will take details from the concerned officer tomorrow (Tuesday) itself.”
Strand Cinema Bought over
In 2008, the city's landmark Strand cinema was bought over by Kwality head honcho Ravi Ghai, Managing Director (MD) and Chairman of GL Hotels. Ghai, former promoter of the famous Natraj Hotel on Marine Drive who owns the Intercontinental Hotel at Marine Drive and six Mayfair units across the country. The Strand premises will have all Ghai's ventures, Mayfair banquets, Kwality, Baskin Robbins offices under one roof. Ghai had said at that time, "Renovation work is on and the premises should be ready in approximately 18 months."