Why was Dahisar building not razed?

Just a day after a building collapsed in Mumbra, a similar horror visited Dahisar on Saturday. The four-storeyed Piyush building in Dahisar collapsed, killing seven people and injuring six. The building was declared unsafe in 2010 and its residents evacuated the premises. However, neither the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) nor the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) took the next logical step of demolishing the building. And this is how their callousness caught up with innocent locals.

The BMC and MHADA claim that the demolition of the building, Piyush, was the housing society’s responsibility. Pic/Kiran Bhalerao

Those who perished, ironically, were not residents of the building but family members of the watchman who had been appointed to ensure no anti-social elements entered the abandoned building. The watchman, who survived the crash, lost his entire family who was visiting him in Mumbai. Who, then, is responsible for the death of the watchman’s family? Is it the housing society or the builder who constructed the building back in 1982? The BMC and the MHADA, however, seem to have no answers and are busy playing the blame game, instead. 

The BMC claims it had sent notices to the society to evacuate the building and had given them the permission to carry out the repair work. Sitaram Kunte, municipal commissioner, who visited the site, said, “The BMC had done its bit. We had sent notices to the residents of the building to evacuate the structure as it was dangerous. Most of the time, the builders and the tenants (residents) don’t come to a consensus for maintenance or redevelopment of the building, which often results in its collapse.”

S Dhonde, local ward officer, added, “The BMC prosecuted the society of the building after they failed to carry out repair work after receiving the municipal body’s notice. It’s a private building and the owners are responsible for it. The BMC can’t go and demolish the structures.”

When SUNDAY MiD DAY finally managed to trace the builder, Nemji Gangar, he pleaded innocence, and said, “It is not my fault. I was always ready to give conveyance of the building to the society, but they were not united. Blaming me is futile -- I withdrew from overseeing the daily affairs of the building a long
time ago.”

Thirty-five members resided at Piyush, and eagerly awaited their return home. However, now, they doubt whether they will ever truly have their homes back. When contacted, the chairman of Piyush apartments, Lalit Jain, blamed the builder for the collapse. “We vacated the building way back in 2010 after some of the iron in the structure rusted and BMC told us it was unsafe to stay.

We didn’t have the conveyance deed of the land and had asked the builder to get the land conveyed to us. We even wanted the building to be redeveloped, but because the builder was uncooperative, we couldn’t. The BMC had even begun prosecuting against the society for not carrying out repairs,” he said. Jain added that if builder would have agreed, the building would have been demolished and a new structure’s work would have begun.

Meanwhile, the situation is more or less similar for MHADA -- demolition of a structure under similar circumstances is left to the owner or the builder. Chief officer MHADA, repair board, Mohan Thombre, said, “According to the MHADA Act, after dilapidated MHADA buildings are evacuated, there’s no specific time frame within which the building must be demolished.” 

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