South Mumbai residents hold a rally to convince people to vacate dilapidated buildings

May 14, 2018, 07:38 IST | Suyash Karangutkar

Residents of centuries-old dilapidated bldgs hold rally to convince those staying put to vacate, so that redevelopment can kick-start

Lakdawala building in the Bhendi Bazaar cluster is nearly 120 years old
Lakdawala building in the Bhendi Bazaar cluster is nearly 120 years old

Bhendi Bazaar is, as usual, abuzz, but the recent flurry of activity has tones of nervousness and fear to it, and at the centre of it the issue of redevelopment of the cluster of centuries-old buildings, which are barely managing to stand erect.

To that end, a group of residents, including students, took out a rally, organised by the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), to convince people to vacate their homes before it is too late. However, with less than a month to go for the monsoon, several residents have their own issues.

Residents during the awareness rally organised in the area. Pics/Ashish Raje
Residents during the awareness rally organised in the area. Pics/Ashish Raje

In danger
Not far from the rally meeting point is Rakala Manzil. Some 15 families reside in the 110-year-old structure. "We want to move out, but we have to wait, as our landlord is in talks with the trust," said Murtaza Kaanchwala, a first-floor resident. Several others complained about the structure having suffered blows during previous monsoons. "I stay on the top floor. When it rains, water often accumulates in my house. The staircase leading up to my floor is also very narrow," said Rashida Ratlamwala, 63.

One resident spoke about the pitiable condition of the public toilet on each floor, while another pointed to the crumbling ceiling. Next door is the 120-year-old Lakdawala building, where a handful continue to hold on to their cracked flats, family of Kumail Shaikh, 27, among them. "The structure is weak, making it dangerous for us to stay," said his sister Rabav.

A relieved Kumail said, "Thankfully, we've found an alternative flat and will move out soon." Marium Kapadia, whose house is above the Shaikhs', wishes she were as lucky. "My husband and I have visited the trust's office many times but haven't received a positive response from them. Yes, we are afraid. But what can we do?" she asked with a bitter smile.

Rakala Manzil residents are waiting for their landlord to sort things out
Rakala Manzil residents are waiting for their landlord to sort things out

SBUT's plan
Nine sub-clusters in Bhendi Bazaar are under the SBUT, which had faced criticism after the collapse of Hussain Manzil last September. "There are 250 buildings in these clusters that authorities have declared dilapidated. Our plan is to demolish these buildings and construct 17 towers. We will also widen the roads and provide additional amenities to residents," said an SBUT representative.

Saifuddin Patnawala of SBUT said, "We've increased the rent to Rs 30,000 a month. We are willing to give them Rs 7.2 lakh in advance for a new room till they get their homes. We've also said that in case we can't rehabilitate them in three years, there will be an increment of 5 per cent. "We will increase awareness among them, as we don't know what the monsoon will bring with it."

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