Mumbai: Contractor abandons residents of Dadar building mid-repairs

Updated: Dec 14, 2017, 18:28 IST | Hemal Ashar

Workers leave 53-year-old building with 28 homes high and dry, without completing repairs, after a tiff with one of the residents sometime last year

For the residents of Dadar's Prarthana Apartments, prayer may really be the only way forward. For more than a year, they have been forced to watch their homes crumble before them, despite paying nearly Rs 50 lakh for repairs. At the heart of the issue is a mysterious tale of blackmail and threats, which allegedly caused the contractor to quit the project midway. This is not the first time that a builder has left citizens in the lurch by quitting a project midway, but sets this case apart is a bizarre tale of blackmail and threats.

Prarthana Apartments. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Prarthana Apartments. Pics/Bipin Kokate

The residents of Prarthana Apartments contracted Sharved Reinforce Constructions to start the repairs in March 2015, at a cost of Rs 50 lakh. Most of this amount has already been paid, but the company suddenly quit work in April 2016. In a letter to the building society, Sharved proprietor Arvind Bhalerao stated that a false complaint had been filed against him, because of which he would no longer continue work.

Residents show the crumbling walls in their home
Residents show the crumbling walls in their home

'Hug and kisses'
It turns out that the problem began after one of the residents began asking questions about the repair work. Last March, she found a letter that had been slipped under her door, stating (in English): 'Pipe work is beginning in the building and you should stop opposing me. If you don't then I have a video clip of you hugging and kissing another resident. I will make this public.'

The repairs have been stuck in limbo for more than a year
The repairs have been stuck in limbo for more than a year

The woman recalled, "The police came to investigate, and in the course of the inquiry, the cops spoke to some workers too. The contractor quit one month later."

Status quo woe
For the last 20 months, the residents have been living in limbo, unable to convince the contractor to return and complete the project. To make matters worse, the building's society committee also dissolved earlier this year, and few want to volunteer for the job. For now, the building is under the charge of an administrator-cum-auditor.

In a Catch-22 situation, unable to fork out more money for repairs
In a Catch-22 situation, unable to fork out more money for repairs

Meanwhile, some refuse to pay maintenance charges (Rs 5,500 every quarter), pointing out that they have lost lakhs in the incomplete repairs. Each resident - there are 28 flats in the building - claim they have paid Rs 1-2 lakh to the society for the repairs.

Residents of the building, where many flats have crumbling walls and cracked beams
Residents of the building, where many flats have crumbling walls and cracked beams

Ramesh Parab, who lives on the second floor, said that the civil repairs had affected the gas pipes and electrical wiring too. "I had to make do without gas and electricity for two-and-a-half months. I got it repaired myself. I paid R1 lakh out of my pocket for the repairs; what has been done?"

But Ramesh's immediate neighbour, Judith Monteiro pointed out that the residents could not afford to do nothing any longer. "The beams and columns in numerous flats require repairs, but they have been left half-way. What if the building comes down on us?" she questioned.

"The contractor was supposed to paint the building and repair the cracked compound floor, without which we fear the building may start sinking into the ground," she added, pointing to a huge cavity on the ground floor, temporarily filled with bricks.

The other side
Arvind Bhalerao, proprietor of Sharved Reinforce Constructions, told mid-day that the allegations of threats and blackmail were only part of the reason for his quitting. "If the residents think I left the work half-way, the courts are open to them and they also have recourse to the police. The housing society owes me Rs 10.5 lakh. How can I continue the work when money is owed to me? I have not done any shoddy work," he said.

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Administration gives its version
Arvind Purohit, former society chairman, refused to comment on the matter, only saying, "It is the people who have not paid that are creating a problem." L T Rathod, current administrator of the building, echoed: "Out of 28 members, at least 12 do not pay maintenance. How will the society run? They keep harping on about this problem but it's beyond my purview."

28
No. of families in the building

Rs 50 lakh
Total cost of repairs

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