Students drop out of school after BMC vacates building

It seems the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) can do no right. After it went into high gear vacating dangerous buildings after the Dockyard Road building collapse, it got Building no 2 in Gautam Nagar, Dadar vacated and asked the families to shift to a transit camp in Mahulgaon, Chembur. But the families who shifted there are facing a hard time sending their children to school in Dadar. Building no 2 housed BMC employees.

Emptied: Residents of Building No 1 are refusing to vacate the premises as the transit camp in Mahulgaon is too far. Pics/Satyajit Desai

After the premises were vacated on October 1, 10 families moved into the transit camp at Chembur. But since their children study in the Shindewadi BMC school in Dadar, it’s a tough ask for the children and parents to commute the distance every day.

Streetlight study: A child studies on the streets after his family moved out of Building no 2. In order to be near their children’s schools, residents are staying on the road opposite their building

Of the 10 children, five have dropped out of school, having being unable to afford the daily travel. The other five also barely manage to make it to school.
Deepak Mehta (name changed), one of the residents who shifted to Chembur, said, “I have to take both my kids to school in the morning, and then go to work. Then, in the evening, I have to go pick them up and go back home. Apart from being tiring, it’s also burning a hole in our pockets, as we spend almost Rs 100 per day on the travel.”

The other 50 families decided not to go to Mahulgaon, and are currently staying on the streets, and the common reading room below the buildings. But things aren’t looking good for them as well.

Lalita Shah (name changed), a Building no 2 resident who now stays on the road opposite the building, said, “We couldn’t go to Mahulgaon because my grandchildren go to school in two different sessions -- morning and afternoon -- at the Shindewadi BMC English Medium School. It was just not possible for them to come this far. Hence, we are staying on the road. But we have to make use of the facilities at a relative’s place, which is very difficult to manage in the morning.”

Next to be vacated
Building no 1, which houses employees of the Solid Waste Management department, is next on the BMC’s list of buildings to be vacated. The evacuation notice was sent on Friday, but residents are refusing to leave their homes.

Shekhar Lad, (name changed), one of the employees who reside in Building no 1, said, “We don’t want to shift to a far-off place like Mahulgaon because we can’t send our children to school from there. We send our children to school so that they don’t have to become sweepers, but the BMC is depriving our children of education with this move.”

Mahul, which is an industrial area with refineries and factories, is anathema to the residents because of the pollution.

Another resident of Building no 1 said, “If they want us to go and stay in Mahulgaon, we want the higher authorities to come and stay with us. The water there is contaminated and it smells of chemicals the whole day. Our life span will reduce by half if we stay there.”

The residents of Building no 1 also refuse to believe the BMC’s notice that their building needs to be vacated. They believe they don’t need to leave at all.
“We are collecting Rs 2,000 from each resident and we will get a structural audit done by a private firm, as the BMC refuses to show us their report of the audit that was done in 2009,” added another resident of Building no 1.

Almost 85 per cent of the children from Gautam Nagar go to the Shindewadi BMC School, which includes some who are in Std X. There are also some students who go to college and are appearing for their final year BCom exams this year.

Sanjay Kurhade, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, F-South ward, said, “For the larger interest of the people, we have had to vacate the building no 2. Building no 1 has been given a week’s notice for the evacuation. Parents will have to bear some troubles for their children, as this has been done to save their lives.” 

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