Mumbai: SoBo building residents in clampdown feel 'its like living in prison'

Updated: 29 October, 2020 07:45 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

No domestic help, no visitors and other strict measures rile residents of plush Breach Candy building, which has five cases

Sarnath Building at Breach Candy. Pic/Suresh Karkera; (inset) egg yolk at Dr Sanjay Navani's doorstep
Sarnath Building at Breach Candy. Pic/Suresh Karkera; (inset) egg yolk at Dr Sanjay Navani's doorstep

The A wing of an upscale building, Sarnath Apts, tucked away in the Sophia College lane, is in a battle with some office-bearers of the committee over a COVID-19 clampdown. The fight has reached a point where the society's honorary secretary said that he has become a target, with eggs being hurled at his door at least thrice and even his internet connection cut off.

Sarnath building has two wings, A and B. The A wing has twelve floors and 24 flats. Each wing functions as a separate entity with different committees. A resident stated, "Even with all these restrictions, many of them stifling and unjust, there are COVID cases in the building."

Sarnath Building at Breach Candy. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Sarnath Building at Breach Candy. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Several residents pointed out that these 'unfair' guidelines were in place even before the COVID cases. "It has been five months since the city unlocked. Today, restaurants, shops, places of work are open but our society is closed," the resident said.

Flouting rules

Some residents approached advocate Mathew Antony, Mumbai-based president of the All India Professionals' Congress (AIPC). Antony has sent a letter to chairman Kevik Setalvad and honorary secretary Dr Sanjay Navani, signed by at least 13 residents. The letter, dated October 24, in a nutshell:

It begins by acknowledging government measures to contain the pandemic. Yet, it accuses the managing committee led by, "the chairman and secretary of flouting the rules laid down by the Maharashtra government as well as Maharashtra Minister of Cooperatives."

Also Read: Mumbai: Sassoon Docks mayhem upsets SoBo residents

Eggshell pieces on honorary secretary Dr Sanjay Navani's door
Eggshell pieces on honorary secretary Dr Sanjay Navani's door

Suffering cited

The letter cites certain points:
. No full-time domestic help allowed into the building.

. No part-time help allowed back into the building.

. Mothers and their children kept apart even when they are in different blocks of the same building.

. No family members of residents allowed into the building, even when members are ill or need help or when there is an important family event.

. No visitors allowed.

. Several flats in terrible disrepair since work was being done by the building before the lockdown. Several residents — especially senior citizens are suffering in inhuman, run-down conditions.

. The two-page letter ends with, senior citizens have, "repeatedly written and spoken to the Chairman and secretary only to be shouted at." The signatories have likened this to "living in a prison" and said it is, "causing them great emotional distress."

Advocate Mathew Antony
Advocate Mathew Antony

Eggs and internet

Setalvad had a curt "I do not wish to talk," when asked to respond. Dr Navani, honorary secretary, said, "I do not know in what capacity Mr Mathew Antony is representing anybody, and I do not even know if he is representing them. Why should he be writing to us in the first place? Does he have a vakalatnama? If he does, then I can answer him accordingly. I think the issue is getting politicised."

Navani added, "We are going to ease into opening the building after November 5. We already have five cases in the building. We have to be extremely pragmatic. We also have a letter from the BMC, about enforcing certain rules. How can we flout those?"

The secretary also said that they have been allowing services like workers to attend to electricity problems, repairs to appliances and residents have been getting their cars serviced in the building compound. "We have certain rules for servants. There are some who do not wish to abide by them," Dr Navani finished, "In fact, it is I who has been targeted. Some persons who are unhappy with me splattered an egg on my front door. This was the third such incident. Earlier incidents too included egg splattering and tearing down the internet connection wire."

Hitting back

Antony hit back saying, "I do not need any vakaalatnama. Residents approached me as I am a politician and a social worker. In fact, I did try to speak to Navani but was roundly rebuffed."

Antony stressed that the office bearers, "need to look at this in a humanitarian manner. A complete barring without even listening to the residents is inhuman. Also, committee members are going out of the building and getting exposed, so there is little point in this kind of absolute rigidity. In fact, I have also had complaints of bullying and of residents being threatened with being thrown out, though they have equal rights as owners. We need to come to a logical conclusion. Or, this may have to be taken up with the cooperative minister and registrar to take over the administration of the managing committee as allowed by the law."

Approx. no. of residents who signed a letter sent to society

No. of floors in Sarnath 'A' wing

No. of flats in Sarnath 'A' wingt

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First Published: 29 October, 2020 07:29 IST

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