Mumbai rains: Residents of Lloyd Estate say, we warned that this would happen!
Residents of Lloyd Estate, where the compound wall disappeared on Monday morning, had taken developer Dosti Realty to court over dangerous digging
Resdents of Lloyd Estate, who were hurriedly evacuated after the compound wall cave-in at Wadala on Monday, are furious. The cave-in that also swallowed a few cars of the residents there, was just waiting to happen, they said. A year ago, the residents, worried by the excavation work going on dangerously close to their building had complained to the local ward office. When the civic body brushed off their concerns, the residents went to the small causes court against the developer.
"In fact, we had a hearing in court on Monday, and then before dawn the cave-in happened. Had the local ward office and court taken cognizance of our complaint, this incident could have been averted," said Madhav Rajput, 84, a lawyer and resident of C-wing Lloyd Estate. The C and D wings have 216 flats for regular residents, while A and B wings are Customs' residential quarters.
Dr G M Rana and Madhav Rajput at the latter's flat in Lloyd's Estate, Wadala. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
'Had informed developer'
Rajput, who practises at Ballard Pier court, said the residents had informed the developer about the stilt road in the society becoming uneven due to the excavation work.
Another resident said, "Even after the wall had caved in, the workers continued with the excavation work. We were appalled and had to force them to stop the work." Rajput's daughter-in-law, Mayuri, said, "It was around 4 am on Monday, when I was rudely woken up by a loud thud. I ignored it, but some time later I heard the fire brigade siren and peeped out to see the entire compound wall had caved in along with the cars lined up near it."
Rajput has been living in a 1,100 sq feet, 2BHK flat since 2003 (current cost of the flat is R2 crore) and is among the few old members of the society. He said he was in the area when the excavation site housed a steel factor, which was later demolished and excavation began at the spot in the past year-and-a-half.
Dosti Realty Ltd has acquired the plot and has planned three buildings of A, B, and C wings (3 basement + ground + 5 podium + 38 upper floors) comprising of 538 flats (which would have housed 2,690 people); one Economically Weaker Section (EWS) building of nine floors consisting of 81 flats (housing around 405 people) and a 506-vehicle public parking space for the civic body. The entire project would have been completed in the next five-six years and would cost more than Rs 700 crore.
Another resident, Dr G M Rana, from the same wing, said, "When the excavation work began, because of the heavy drilling machines, we saw cracks formed on our compound wall and interior stilt road had become uneven. The developer's site engineers only gave us assurances, so we approached court."
Dr Rana said, "Unlike other stretches which had concrete reinforcements soon after the excavation of the boundaries, nothing of the sort was done at the site of our compound wall. This may have caused the cave-in."
The residents have not yet been able to find out whose vehicles were buried in the cave-in. The local police dissuaded residents from trying to pull their vehicles out of the mud as they wanted to be sure that there is no human being buried alive or dead in the debris. It was only in the evening after a sniffer dog confirmed that no one was buried that the police gave the nod for cranes to be brought in to pull out the vehicles, which will be done on Tuesday.
A private structural auditor, who was called in to inspect LLyod Estate, gave the clearance for residents to move in the evening. Rana said, "The structural engineer made sure that there was no damage to the pillars or the structure of LLoyd Estate."
The Antop Hill police have registered an FIR against Dosti Realty proprietor Deepak Garodia, chairman Kishan Garodia, along with BMC's building proposal department and other officials.
What the police say
DCP (Zone IV) N Ambika said, "We have registered offence for negligent conduct with respect to machinery, act endangering life or personal safety of others), mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees and mischief by injury to public road, bridge, river or channel. We are yet to arrest the accused." Senior police inspector Sudarshan Paithankar of Antop Hill police station said, "We have registered an FIR and our investigation is underway."
An insurance expert, who did not wish to be named, said, "Had the incident merely been considered a natural disaster due to heavy rain, the car owners would not have got their insurance claims. But, now that the police have registered an FIR, the car owners should have no problem making vehicle insurance claims."
Attempts made to contact Garodia did not yield any result. A staffer at the Fort office of Dosti, when contacted, said, "I cannot make any comment on the matter, you may contact our liaison officer."
Sanjoy Deshmukh, the liason officer at their Thane office, said, "I only handle projects in Thane and have no clue about the Mumbai project and prefer not to make any comment." This was strange because in government documents submitted by Dosti Realty while seeking various permissions, Deshkmukh had been cited as the contact person for the Wadala project.
Impact on flat prices
Advocate Vinod Sampat, an expert in property law, said, "When such incidents happen, it is bound to impact the decision of flat purchasers and thereby result in reduction in market value of the property in and around the mishap. Such wrongful acts have been going on for a long time in connivance with government/BMC officials and politicians. This can be a warning for the development of salt pan lands (the Dosti site under construction is salt pan land), as the state government is keen on making affordable houses on these defunct salt pans, which could meet a similar fate as the soil salinity could corrode the steel foundation over time if not treated properly."
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