The reconstruction of ten Madhavnagar towers for 428 economically weak families by Vadodara Urban Development Authority (VUDA) has become an excruciatingly painful wait for the families rendered homeless in September 2013. While VUDA officials insist that they are committed to the construction of the homes for which the families continue to pay their original instalments, suspended work at the site has only pushed families to contemplate extreme steps under financial burden.
After almost a year of delay, the construction of the redevelopment of Madhavnagar was started in December 2014 by NA Construction — the contractor chosen by VUDA under the Public-Private-Partnership project. However, barely three months into the project, the contractor allegedly abandoned the project midway, leaving the families in a lurch.
According to N V Patel, chairman, VUDA, internal bickering between partners of the firm caused the delay. “The delay has been our worry too. We had given a firm ultimatum to commence work or forego the contract. Somehow, one of the partners in the firm gathered another developer to join him and they are now working on the project. The delay has been unfortunate and we understand the impatience of the people, but we are not pushing the constructor as he might end up doing a substandard work that will endanger the lives of the residents further.” Patel said that the work on the site has not been suspended but is “progressive”.
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When The Indian Express visited the site on Friday afternoon, not a single construction worker had reported to work. While the foundation of three of the ten towers has been laid in the initial two months of construction, the site is deserted, barring a supervising officer watching over the construction material stacked at the site. Residents, who gathered at the office of the site supervisor, said the construction has been suspended since March. Santosh Jadhav, a resident, said, “We have appealed to VUDA several times, as recently as three days ago, expressing our anguish at the delay and the suspension of the construction yet again. However, we have received no reply. The monthly rental compensation of Rs 1,500 is meagre as most families earn barely Rs 5,000 a month. We end up paying a minimum rent of Rs 3,000 for our present accommodations and the more the construction is delayed, the more the families are losing finance and patience. Some families are contemplating taking extreme steps as they are unable to bear the burden now. Most families have sold off their belongings to survive till the homes are built.”
At the site, supervisor Kirit Joshi said the work had been delayed first, due to “change in technical drawing” and later, as workers proceeded on leave. Joshi said, “The work will commence the moment the workers return. They have actually taken a leave to attend a wedding, but the work has not been suspended. We are trying to get the workers to report to work this afternoon.”
In their petition to VUDA on Monday, residents demanded an increase in the rental allowance to Rs 4,000 to meet the expenses due to the delay in construction. The petition states, “Given the delay in the construction, we must be compensated with a monthly rent of Rs 4,000 as we are poor and cannot bear the financial pressure. The contractor should be given an ultimatum to begin work on the reconstruction immediately to end the misery of the families.”
VUDA chairman Patel, however, remained non-committal about a deadline, terming the residents “unfortunate” for being VUDA beneficiaries. “We cannot set a deadline in this case as the work has to be of good quality. It is our priority to construct these homes. We pity the families as what happened was not their fault. Their only mistake was that they were allotted flats made by VUDA,” Patel said.
VUDA demolished 31 standing towers after the collapse of two towers in August 2013 that killed 11. Families say they are in a lurch as the work on the reconstruction of the affordable colony remains suspended for over five months.
In January 2014, the developing authority, VUDA, had promised homes within 14 months after the demolitions, along with a monthly rental allowance of Rs 1,500 till the time the homes are ready. Meanwhile, the residents must continue to pay the monthly instalments towards payment of their original apartments, as per their consideration with VUDA.