Here’s the answer to why some citizens would rather risk their lives and stay on in their homes even when the buildings are on the verge of collapse: there’s no guarantee when you’ll get to call a place home, again.
Nearly 60 families have been hopping from one house to another for the decade, thanks to the Maharashtra Housing & Area Development Authority (MHADA). These families have been living in transit camps after their original homes went in for redevelopment. Now, they have to leave the temporary accommodation, too, and move further up from Kalachowkie to Sion and Dharavi.
On November 8, residents at MHADA’s transit camp at Jijamata Nagar and elsewhere received a notice stating that they needed to shift to the camps in Sion-Koliwada and Dharavi, because the rundown building they currently reside at is not safe to inhabit.
These citizens are originally from localities such as Parel, Mazgaon and Cuffe Parade, and have been inhabiting MHADA’s temporary accommodations for 8-10 years. Their kids go to school in areas near the present transit camp, and many families have senior citizens for whom the civic-run hospitals are in the neighbourhood. Shifting to Sion-Koliwada or Dharavi would meanuprooting themselves from a place it has taken them so long to get habituated to.
The residents want their own houses back, but they have been razed down for redevelopment. They worry that MHADA would keep moving them around rather than handing over their dwellings back.
To be on the move perpetually is proving to be frustrating for the families. Vijay Sawant (48), who works at a post office, had his room in Mazgaon, from where he was shifted to the Jijamata Nagar camp in June 2003. He has been living with nine other family members, including three children who go to school and college in the vicinity.
Sawant said, “Things would get a whole lot more troublesome if we are displaced to Dharavi. It would take my children at least about an hour of peak-hour travel to commute to Parel every day. “My 11-year-old daughter studies in a primary school in Parel and my 16-year-old son is in MD College, which is also close to our current residence. How can they concentrate on their studies if they have to worry about reaching classes on time every morning and then getting back home by 7 pm?”
About 60 other families have got relocation notices, but a chunk of the residents have been asked to shift to Sewri. Only five-six have to shift to Dharavi and Sion-Koliwada.
A resident originally from Cuffe Parade, 81-year-old Manohar Pathare was shifted to Jijamata Nagar five years ago, with his wife Mani, who is now 79 years old. Manohar retired from a private firm as an electrician, and the couple have been living here since their original house was demolished for redevelopment.
The Pathares got the notice asking them to move to Sewri, which will be inconvenient to both of them. “We are both old and we have no other option but to go,” said Pathare.
Another resident Vishvram Rawle (80), originally from Bhagwandas Bagleshwar building in Bhoiwada, was shifted to a Ghatkopar camp in 1990. There are seven members in this family, of whom two are senior citizens and two are aged 6 and 3. Three in the family have chronic health issues.
“But we have to shift, or the authority would take action against us. What can we do?” said Rawle. The housing authority has no answers.
Prasad Lad, chairman of the MHADA repair board, said, “The Kalachowkie building tilted a bit seven days ago, and it could be dangerous to live in. We don’t want to take any chances with the residents’ lives.”
Asked about how long it would take for the citizens’ original houses to be rebuilt, Lad said, “Right now, we are more concerned about their life than about tackling other issues.”