Navi Mumbai: 45,000 residents in Vashi told to 'get out'

Updated: Sep 23, 2019, 10:46 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Navi Mumbai

With Navi Mumbai civic body declaring 450+ CIDCO bldgs 'extremely dangerous', residents served eviction notices furious after CIDCO says maintenance onus is on societies

Exterior of some of the 30-year-old buildings declared 'extremely dangerous'
Exterior of some of the 30-year-old buildings declared 'extremely dangerous'

Residents of more than 750 buildings in Navi Mumbai have been slapped with eviction notices by the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) after their buildings, which are just 30 years old, have been declared 'extremely dangerous'. The notices will impact lives of at least 45,000 people living in 9,000 flats in buildings constructed by the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO).

The civic body has also threatened forcible eviction with police help if residents do not vacate the premises in time. "This building is declared extremely dangerous" notices greet you at almost every nook and corner of Vashi's sectors 9, 10 and 16. The CIDCO was formed about 50 years ago to build Navi Mumbai as a counter city to Mumbai, which was bursting at its seams. NMMC took over the reins of the civic administration in 1995.

Residents who have spoken up against the unfair classification of the JN type buildings
Residents who have spoken up against the unfair classification of the JN type buildings

The NMMC general body in its initial meetings discussed the dilapidated buildings of JN type (a type of building structure) constructions and got structural audits done by IIT, Powai, which declared the buildings unfit for human habitation way back in 1997. However, several attempts at their redevelopment fell through due to political interference and lack of consensus among the owners over handing over the job to builders.

Also Read: Navi Mumbai: Survey of 1.5 lakh Panvel plots done; Kharghar next

In response to an RTI application filed by activist B N Kumar, one of the old settlers at Vashi, the CIDCO has refused to own responsibility for the poor condition of these buildings stating that the maintenance is the responsibility of the housing societies. A resident of Gulmohar society, a cluster of 18 buildings in Vashi, said, "We have been living here for 35 years and always knew our building cannot be dilapidated as claimed by NMMC. Soon after the notice was put up, we got our buildings structurally audited again and also did random sampling of two out of 18 buildings and found that they fall under the C-2A category (repairable) and not C1 (extremely dangerous) category as claimed." "We have challenged the matter in Bombay High Court, which will come up for hearing on Monday," a resident said, adding that they had nowhere to go if evicted. "There are people who have no alternate accommodation and they continue to stay in the structures at their own risk."

Joseph Pinto, Ujjwala Shendge and Manmohan Singh: residents of the dilapidated JN type building in Vashi
Joseph Pinto, Ujjwala Shendge and Manmohan Singh: residents of the dilapidated JN type building in Vashi

In a letter to NMMC commissioner on July 1 (days after the police forced 200 residents to evict the houses), residents of Gulmohar and Ashirwad societies stated: "Our contention is that the NMMC's classification of our buildings in the C1 category is faulty. It has also not followed due procedure in the matter. Further, the NMMC is selectively quoting the HC order on the issue of dilapidated buildings without considering the DCR rules."

Resident Joseph Pinto, 65, who stays in building JN 15 said, "Our building is not dilapidated yet; it is being declared as one by vested interests. In connivance with NMMC, they want us evicted from our homes." "Developers with political nexus are using the story of redevelopment to take over the land that CIDCO has leased for 60 years. We are fine if CIDCO is undertaking the redevelopment and can assure us that it will complete it within three years. We do not want private builders to take over our homes," said Pinto.

No response to RTI queries

Kumar had sent an application to the State Urban Development (UD) department under which the CIDCO functions. But the UD department has thrown the ball into the CIDCO's court. "Since CIDCO's response is cryptic and incomplete, I am going for the first appeal on the RTI application." "Another pertinent point is that the plots on which the dangerous buildings came up are still owned by CIDCO as the title was not transferred to the societies," said Kumar.

"While CIDCO is virtually gifting its land away, NMMC is hell-bent on evicting residents by fraudulently classifying them under the C1 category. This is nothing but an orchestrated attempt to favour private builders," said Anil Singh, resident of Ashirwad society. Neither the UD nor CIDCO have responded to RTI queries on the policy on redevelopment, permissible FSI and transit camps for the people who will be displaced.

"Does CIDCO absolve itself of moral and constitutional duties to ensure quality structures as these buildings developed problems within a span of ten years?" Kumar questioned. The NMMC had even snapped water and power connections to Gulmohar society in sector 9 on June 20 which led to a massive outrage.

Speaking to mid-day, Dr N Ramaswamy, former NMMC commissioner, presently posted as Chief Executive Officer, Maharashtra Maritime Board, said, "It is a fact that some of these buildings have serious structural issues and have been declared dangerous for living. It is not that all buildings declared dangerous have a nexus between builders and politicians, there are internal building issues too."

Also Read: 19,000 crores for 90,000 Mega Housing Scheme approved by CIDCO

'CIDCO must redevelop'

He added, "In numerous court cases, it has been pleaded that in case of any untoward happenings, it will be NMMC who will be held responsible, that's why we insisted on redevelopment. Having said this, CIDCO should take on the entire redevelopment work of these structures and it can even utilise the extra FSI. It will also eliminate all unwanted middlemen and politicians interfering in the matter."

He also said that CIDCO MD Lokesh Chandra had assured to look into the matter, but before "I could follow up, I was transferred to the Maharashtra Marie Time Board." Chandra did not respond to our calls. However, a CIDCO official said, "CIDCO had constructed these buildings a couple of decades ago and handed them over to the societies who have failed to maintain the structures by carrying out regular repairs."

Abiding by HC order

Samel Divakar, Vashi Ward officer, said, "The structures were declared dilapidated by the Town Planning department on the basis of the IIT's structural audit report. Also, the Bombay High Court had passed an order directing that these buildings were unfit and NMMC will be held responsible in case of any untoward happening." "We are abiding the court and our commissioner's order," said another NMMC official. Anil Deshmukh, senior police inspector Vashi police station confirmed the police had provided protection to NMMC officials disconnecting power, water and gas connections in the structures.

9,000
No. of flats that will be vacated

30
Approximate age of the JN type buildings in Vashi's sector 9, 10, 11

1995
Year NMMC took over the reins of civic administration in Navi Mumbai

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