Waiting for a tragedy to happen

Nearly 12 years after MiD DAY first reported how 6,000 people were living in 25 dilapidated buildings at Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar even after it had been declared ‘unsafe’ by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), only two things seem to have changed: the number of residents has gone up to nearly 10,000 and the condition of the buildings have deteriorated further, with most of them on the verge of collapse. It’s a disaster waitingto happen.

The condition of the  buildings  at Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar have deteriorated further since 2002, with most of them on the verge of collapse. Pic/Shailesh Bhatia

The Central government had many decades ago, allotted 25 buildings, each having 48 tenements, (SMD has a copy of one such conveyance deed, which took effect from 12/9/1960) to refugees who had come to India post partition.

When SUNDAY MiD DAY revisited the site, which stands on 53,242 Sq metres of freehold land, once exclusively allotted to the refugees from West Punjab (now Pakistan), the condition of the buildings looks scary.

Cracks in the beams and the columns, combined with fallen slabs, exposing the corroded iron beams, were prominent in all the structures. SMD has in its possession a warning notice issued by the BMC in 2000, which categorically states that the buildings are in a dangerous/dilapidated condition and likely to fall down at any time.

Residents say that getting such annual notices has become common, just like getting news of collapsed slabs and ceilings from various flats, but it does not offer them any alternative solutions. “Over the years, we had many developers coming in, offering their services for redevelopment, but unfortunately we have not been able to take any unanimous decisions,” alleged Sunil Vijan, a resident here for the last 50 years.

“In a response to a RTI application I had filed, the land record department said they had lost the maps of four buildings (SMD has the response copy). These documents are vital for any redevelopment,” said another resident Pravir Chopra, who has also written to the Chief Minister, requesting for his intervention.

When contacted, local MLA Jaganath Shetty said he was aware of the plight of the buildings and discussed the issue with the CM. “I have sanctioned a lot of repair work on the buildings, but these are only temporary solutions. The residents are misled by over exaggerated promises of additional FSI and monetary perks by builders.”

Municipal Councilor, Tamil Selvan of F North, said, “Till the time all the residents come together on a single platform, nothing can be done. Redevelopment is the only solution.”  

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