Andheri society left open to miscreants after BMC demolishes boundary wall

Updated: Dec 28, 2017, 10:06 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Andheri residential colony imperiled as perimeter broken during BMC demolition, leaving it free for trespassers and a target for crimes

Debris of the broken periphery of the Andheri West society stacked up inside the colony. Pics/Falguni Agarwal
Debris of the broken periphery of the Andheri West society stacked up inside the colony. Pics/Falguni Agarwal

A 65-year-old colony in Andheri West has been left precariously open to the main road after a recent BMC demolition drive. Dhake Colony Co-Operative Housing Society, located on JP Road, very close to Apna Bazaar, has porous borders. Angry residents say the civic authorities conducted a one-day demolition drive a week ago, to remove the numerous hawkers and small tin shops on the footpath on the periphery of the colony, and this is the result.

Andheri debris

All fall down
“These hawkers and small shops were literally standing against the barbed-wire fencing surrounding our colony. When the shops were being demolished by the BMC, our fencing broke too, as the machines brought down the shops, and with it, broke the fencing. Now, we are left without a boundary protection,” said resident Manoj Mukatiwala, who is the society treasurer.

Society chairman Anand Shirali said, “The demolition drive literally prised the shops from the ground and broke them. Because they abutted our fencing, that too was uprooted, including the concrete columns on which the barbed wire stood. Now, the entire colony, comprising five buildings, is open like a maidan, with people free to enter and all kinds of persons trespassing near our homes.”

Climate of fear
A visit to the colony validates residents’ fear. In the absence of a perimeter, passers-by walking on the extremely busy road outside were seen crossing inside the sizeable housing enclave. A security cabin with a guard stands at the main gate, but it is impossible for him to keep vigil over the entire colony.

Hawkers, with their trademark resilience, too have returned on the footpath from where they were evicted. When this reporter visited the spot, many of them had actually kept some of their wares inside the colony. Residents Jyoti Shetty, Aruna Bhatt and Hema Mukatiwala said, “We are so apprehensive and feel so vulnerable. Children have to be watched very closely when they play outside, as there is no protection. There is at least one parent keeping an eye on kids playing in the compound. In today’s times, we simply cannot let them out of our sight, especially with easy access for all in this housing enclave.”

Question of safety
Said Ramila Gala, managing committee member, “We are fearful. The ground floor homes are especially susceptible to crime. We have so many senior citizens. We see that small shops and hawkers who were removed from the footpath have already started returning. We don’t want to take away anybody’s livelihood, but with no wall, they (the hawkers) are inching into our boundary. How do we stop them?”

Even as Gala was speaking, a hawker was actually picking up her wares from near a home inside the colony to set up shop outside. Residents Sanjay Kaushok and Satish S pointed to some tin planks and other material lodged in another corner of their colony. “This too belongs to a vendor, who stored it here during eviction. Now, when we ask whose it is, they keep saying ‘we don’t know, the owner is away; wait, he will come and take it’,” they said.

Throw it back!
Kaushok who has been in the colony since birth remembered the time when “maximum demolitions used to happen during municipal commissioner Khairnar (who had earned the epithet ‘demolition man’ for his ruthless drives)”.

“I remember pitched battles. When the BMC would move in for eviction, hawkers and makeshift shop owners would flee, actually throwing their wares over the wire into our colony. When we used to complain to Khairnar, he would say ‘well, throw them back on the road!’ A throwing match would ensue,” he said.

Shirali said, “We have to rebuild the boundary wall. I have a quotation of R3.80 lakh, for 670 sqm of barbed-wire perimeter along with a cement base for the wire to stand on. The society will now have to cough up this amount and work will take at least 10 days. We have an emergency committee meeting on the weekend to discuss the expense.”

No complaint recorded
K-west ward’s Assistant Municipal Commissioner Prashant Gaikwad, however, said, “We have not received any complaint from the residents. I am also not aware that shops have started springing up again. I will check that. If the residents say the wire has been broken during demolition, they can get it put up again; it will take a day at the most, it is a fairly straightforward job. However, I had no clue this had happened, as the BMC has not been told about this. We will take care about any such eventuality in the future.”

But Shirali signed off angrily, speaking for the 52 members of the colony, “We will have to spend from our funds for the repairs. If the BMC claims it takes only one day to replace the fencing, I ask them to send me the person who will do this in one day and we, at Dhake colony, will ensure he gets an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records!”

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