Residents don't want to vacate rickety buildings
After BMC's evacuation notices to occupants of 900 buildings, residents say they cannot just pack up and move to transit camps; fear they might not be able to return
“It’s near impossible to even gather the emotions attached to this place where we have been staying for 60 years. And the BMC wants us to vacate the building with all our luggage in a mere 48 hours,” said 81-year-old Chandrakala Pathak, while showing this reporter the notice she received from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on the evening of May 31.
The notice categorically states that the residents of A block in Tata Compound, Andheri (W) should vacate their homes in two days, given that the building is dilapidated and unsafe for occupation. If they fail to do so, the notice goes on to mention, the planning authority will disconnect their electricity and water supply. Furthermore, if the residents choose to stay on regardless and any untoward incident occurs during their stay, they will be solely responsible for it.
The BMC last week issued notices to residents of nearly 900 tumbledown buildings in Mumbai that fall under its jurisdiction, asking them to vacate the structures within two days. The letters, delivered via courier to those who didn’t accept the letter in person, have left residents shells-hocked.
They have got not more than two days to pack up their belongings and shift to the transit accommodation the BMC is providing. When MiD DAY visited Tata Compound, residents of the buildings that were issued the notice did not seem ready to accept that their building is dangerous for habitation and needs to be vacated. Rather than an impending collapse, they are more worried that if they leave the building and go stay in a transit camp, they might not be able to return to their original abode. In fact, a few don’t even agree that their building is dilapidated.
The Pathaks have been staying in one such building since 1956. They say they have too many memories attached to the place that cannot be packed in a suitcase and transported to another place. Chandrakala and her husband Natwarlal (85), both teachers, stay alone at home. They would like to continue at the same place and do not accept that their building is a hazard to live in. “How is it possible to shift to an alien place, that too in 48 hours? We have lived here all our lives. This is not just a home for us; it’s everything and more. Will we even be allowed to return after four months?” asked Chandrakala.
While almost every resident of the building got the notice, two did not. Mangala Dighe (83) and Mukund Nirgudkar (84) were not sent eviction notices because they are fighting cases against the BMC over their property. Dighe, wife of an ex-freedom fighter, claims that the BMC has orally asked her to evict the place.
She said she wouldn’t budge till she’s alive. Similarly, Nirgudkar, ex-assistant commissioner of BMC’s D ward, wants to stay on in his building, which is “not in disrepair”. Other residents say the BMC is treating them like illegal tenants. “We asked the civic officers whether we’d be able to return after the monsoons. They gave us their word but weren’t ready to put it on paper. How can we trust them?” said another resident of the building.
Assistant Municipal Commissioner of K-West ward, A Shankarwar, said, “We have issued notices to all the dilapidated buildings and are giving the residents transit accommodation. It’s for the betterment of the residents. Also, they have to stay in transit only till the monsoon gets over after which they can return to their homes.”