Battered by two fires in recent years, the owners of 600 shops at Dreams Mall in Bhandup allege that the BMC is fleecing them while turning a blind eye to their plight by not allowing them to resume operations
Dreams Mall in Bhandup West has been shut since a massive fire broke out in 2021, killing 11. Pic/Sameer Markande
Shopkeepers who had stores at the Dreams mall in Bhandup West have complained that the three-storey structure, which has seen two fires since 2021, is in a pitiable condition and they have been dealing with mounting losses while not being allowed to ply their trade. The mall has been shut since the first blaze broke out on the intervening night of March 25 and 26, 2021 at Sunrise Hospital—housed on the third floor of the mall, killing 11 patients. The shopkeepers said they have written to the BMC multiple times.
There were 1,050 shops in the mall. In the blaze that occurred in 2021, 450 shops were burnt, but 600 of them are still intact. We have not been allowed to use the latter for the past two years. Yet, property tax and sewerage tax are being levied by the BMC. The mounting burden of property tax, and retrospectively billed sewerage tax from 2014, is akin to theft of our property,” said a shopkeeper, Nithin Bangera, who alleged that the civic body is turning a blind eye to illegalities.
The mall’s shopkeepers have been writing to the BMC for months seeking relief. Pic/Sameer Markande
The shopkeepers have been repeatedly writing to the civic body seeking relief. Another shopkeeper, Isaac Samuel Joseph, said, “Is there no one to hear our cries? We will be on the road if someone doesn’t help us. We are being harassed by all from every side and are looking for help. We want to start working again.”
A shop-owner, Rajan Varghese, said, “When times were good, we, the Dreams Mall shopkeepers, paid all our dues in time. Now we are on the streets. We have lost everything. The government should have the courtesy to consider our case seriously and sympathetically.”
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Immediately after the first fire, which took 12 hours to douse, civic chief I S Chahal appointed a committee to investigate the incident. Its report blamed both the mall and hospital administration for the fire and also pointed out that fire safety mechanisms, including sprinklers and extinguishers, were non-operational. The panel had also proposed the filing of a criminal case against a private agency for giving a false fire audit report to the hospital.
The second blaze occurred on March 4, 2022, in a space where scrap, inflammable materials and naked electric wires were stored. The fire was extinguished after nine hours. Fortunately, there were no casualties as the mall was empty at the time. When contacted, Ajitkumar Ambi, the ward officer of S ward, said, “The issue is under the fire department.”
A divisional fire officer said, “There were two major fire incidents in the past two years and most of the mall was affected. The structural stability of the mall was also affected and the firefighting system wasn’t working. The mall owner has to comply with both conditions, along with others, to get a NOC,” he said.
Day in March 2022 when the second blaze took place