Tussle between BMC, residents over other tottering buildings in Mumbai

Mar 28, 2014, 08:53 IST | Sujit Mahamulkar and Chetna Yerunkar

Janki Niwas in Dahisar and Azim Building in Khar West are merely two symbols of the state of affairs, where the civic body and residents blame each other, while little action happens on the ground

The fall of a seven-storey building in Vakola earlier this month has forced Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to rise to the challenge posed by numerous wobbly structures in the city that are still standing, but only barely. 

However, the demolition process has been hit by court stay orders, the corporation’s own lapses, and unyielding tenants, who do not want to vacate their dwellings.

Janki Niwas was vacated in June 2013. But, it continued to remain standing, endangering the adjoining Shankar Talekar chawl 

Meanwhile, BMC has identified 593 newly-listed C1 category dilapidated buildings, post the dockyard collapse. The civic body has successfully emptied about 166 structures, and had cut off electricity and water supply to 111 others. But, BMC wants to be more cautious, and action against the remaining 310 C1 category buildings is in process.

On the other hand, the 166 vacated buildings are yet to be demolished, as contractors have not been appointed, so far. The BMC has sent notices to 13,779 buildings, which are 30 years old, or older, for structural audits.

Here are two decrepit buildings in the city that mid-day visited, to find out how to stem the rot.

Janki Niwas, Dahisar
Residents of the chawl next to the rickety Janki Niwas building were having sleepless nights after the Vakola incident. The BMC’s R-North ward office started demolition work here yesterday after our correspondent met the assistant municipal commissioner of the ward.

Janki Niwas, located on Bhikaji Lad Marg near the railway station in Dahisar (W), was vacated in June 2013. But, it continued to remain standing, endangering the adjoining Shankar Talekar chawl, where about 24 families still reside.

Vinod Ware, a resident of the chawl, said, “We personally went to the BMC ward office seven months ago, but there was no response, except assurances. Finally, on Wednesday morning the demolition work began. We were told by BMC that at least the top two storeys should be torn down to make our lives safer.”

The corporation had declared the building dilapidated, and evacuated it last June.

After a structural audit, BMC sent a notice to the landowner to pull down the building. The owner, however, said that he could not afford the expenses of the demolition and the BMC should do it.

Break down: BMC workers began demolition at Janki Niwas yesterday Pics/Nimesh Dave

“The demolition work has been started because mid-day visited the building and raised the issue. I am not in a position to spend Rs 5 lakh on demolition, and requested BMC several times to pull down the structure, but nothing had happened in the past one year,” said Raghunath Raorane, the landowner. He also revealed that every week, one or the other portion of the building collapsed, and it was putting the lives of locals at risk.

Santoshkumar Dhonde, assistant municipal commissioner of the ward, said, “We have started the demolition work, and are trying our best to raze the building as soon as possible.”

Azim Building, Khar West
While BMC officials claim the tenants are not ready to vacate the premises, as they want more benefits from the builder, residents claim the civic body is hand in glove with the developers and, hence, is trying to prove that the building is dilapidated. The 30 to 35-year-old building at Khar’s 40th Road lies in ruins, with the balconies teetering, and the pillars crumbling, endangering even the shops in the vicinity. Being a bargain hunter’s hub, the area has about 20 to 25 shops around. 

In ruins: Azim Building at 40th Road on Khar (W). Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

One retailer, on condition of anonymity, said, “BMC has visited the building several times, and also issued notices in front of us. But, the tenants and landlord don’t want to vacate. There is always a fear of a mishap.”
Apart from issuing notices, the civic body had also visited to cut the water supply of this building, but, as there was a court stay order on demolition, no action was taken. H-west ward assistant municipal commissioner Prashant Sapkale said, “The building is in a rundown condition, and we have delivered notifications many times. But, with a stay order, we cannot do anything, as the order clearly states that the residents would be solely responsible for any mishap, and not the corporation.”

On the other hand, the tenants had a different tale to tell. Salim Ansari, a resident, said, “The building doesn’t need to be pulled down. It just needs repairs that we have already started, and we would get the building back in suitable condition. This is not something that we are merely claiming; we got a structural audit done, and we are following the suggestions given. The building might seem dilapidated due to it not being maintained properly, but it is structurally strong. BMC had issued us the first notice in 2005, and since then nothing has happened to our building. This was just a way to put pressure on us at the behest of the builder.”

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