More than two years after a building collapsed on Dockyard Road claiming 61 lives, the struggle to rebuild their lives is far from over for survivors.
On September 27, 2013, the four-storey Babu Genu building that housed employees of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s markets department collapsed. Following the outrage over how municipal employees and their families had been accommodated in such a severely dilapidated building, the civic body provided alternative accommodation — 10 families were moved into homes in MHADA Complex, Byculla (West) and six families into an SRA building in Ghatkopar (East).
The market department, however, now wants them to vacate the premises that had been provided as temporary accommodation. In December last year and earlier this month, the department sent notices to these families asking them to leave. What’s more, the families have been asked to pay up electricity bills for the Babu Genu building.
“First of all, when we were given accommodation, they did not say it was temporary. It was after we kept following up that they gave us official allotment letters, in June last year. Now, they are taking a u-turn and are asking us to vacate,” said Shweta Kamble, who resides on the 18th floor of a 24-storey MHADA building in Byculla. “And the building they want us to move into is also a dilapidated structure.”
Shweta lost her parents and a sister in the building collapse. She now lives with her 18-year-old younger sister, Simran, in the MHADA complex, in a 225 sq ft flat. “Market department officials have threatened that I will have to pay a monthly rent of Rs 10,000 if I continue to live here,” she said.
Calling the electricity bills a “cruel joke”, she said the markets department had asked for payment of bills up to January 2014. “The building collapsed in September 2013. How can they ask us to pay for electricity after the building collapsed? They do not want us to live peacefully,” she added.
Chandrasekhar Jadhav, 52, a peon in the markets department, said the emotional toil on the survivors had been tremendous. “We lost our near and dear ones. Now, after finally getting accommodation here, we are living like a family, taking care of one another. Now, the civic body wants to divide us again,” said Jadhav, who lives on the 19th floor.
He visited the markets department’s buildings where they have been asked to move to. “Worli Market is propped up by poles and the slab is weakened. Civic officials just want to get us out of this building. If we go there to stay, it will be a repeat of the Dockyard Road building tragedy,” said Jadhav.
Speaking to The Indian Express, BMC officials said the MHADA building was always meant to be a temporary accommodation. “We will hear them out if they have complaints about the eviction notices,” said a senior official.
The other areas they have been offered, the residents said, were market buildings in Dongri and Kurla. “These buildings even lack basic facilities like toilets,” said Jadhav.
Meanwhile, after receiving the BMC’s letters, 21-year-old Chetna Zagade has postponed a surgery to remove metal plates inserted in her legs after the collapse. Tushar More, another resident, is still waiting for a BMC job — his father had retired when the accident took place.
“They are now saying there is no provision to give me a job. Then why make false promises and make me run from pillar to post,” Tushar asked angrily.