Majority of the residents who lived in Jilani Building, part of which collapsed on Monday morning, were tenants, who despite being aware of its dilapidated condition preferred to stay there because of low rents.
“Most residents of the building were either autorickshaw drivers, vendors or labourers who had taken the place on rent,” said Tariq Qureshi, a resident of the building.
Locals claimed around 60 per cent occupants of Jilani Building were tenants, who paid Rs 3,000-4,000 per month as rent. They paid Rs 10,000 as deposit, which in some cases was waived by the flatowners.
The authorities alleged the whole building was illegal and despite issuing notices to residents to vacate the building, they opted to stay there risking their lives. “This building was being served notices for several years but the owners, who rented out the property, would pool in cash after each notice, carry out some repairs and then reply to the corporation that renovation work had been undertaken,” Qureshi claimed.
The initial structure of ground-plus-one floor was constructed as a powerloom in the 1980s, when the area was governed by a gram panchayat. The additional two floors were constructed around 12 years ago without any permission, officials said.
Bhiwandi-Nizampur Municipal Corporation Commissioner Pankaj Aashaya said, “So far I have learnt that the building was served two notices; one in 2019 and the recent one in February, but the residents did not leave as the rent was very low.”
The civic administration said the collapsed structure destroyed 24 houses which were occupied by 62 residents. A resident said, “I’m a flatowner in Jilani Building. If the corporation claims they served us notices then why didn’t they take any action like cutting off water or power supply.”
Junaid Patel, owner of Patel compound in which the building stands, said, “My father had sold small plots of the area to construct buildings and I have seen that building over the course of 40 years.”
He added, “I have seen plaster falling off, we could even see the iron rods of pillars, still people decided to stay.”
Another resident said that for a long time after construction, several flats in the building remained vacant. “Later people decided to buy them as the prices were very low. Once the owners realised the building was good enough to stay, they then planned to sell it off but as they couldn’t, they put their flats on rent.”
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