A year ago, when Priya Nanaware lost her parents and siblings in the Malad wall collapse tragedy that claimed 31 lives, her grandmother Satyabhama Pawar was assured that the little girl, then aged eight, would get a compensation of Rs 55 lakh when she would turn 18 from the state government and the BMC. Meanwhile, to provide for the child’s expenses, the Mumbai collector’s office would keep on depositing a monthly amount in a bank.
A year since then, the wait for the collector’s office to pay Priya’s monthly expenses continues.
She is also yet to get a flat, while many, whose houses were damaged in the collapse, have been provided alternate housing in Mahul.
For the last three months, Satyabama has been sitting at home, as she had not been able to work as a domestic help since the lockdown was imposed. The two can now barely make their ends meet.
“The collector said Priya will get compensation when she turns 18. Did they think how she will survive till then?” asked her aunt Sunita Chaugule.
On the intervening night of July 1 and 2, last year, a huge chunk of wall had collapsed at Pimpri Pada and Ambedkar Nagar in Malad East under a heavy downpour, letting lose water held in BMC’s Malad Hill Reservoir. The flood washed away shanties in the slum settlement, killing 31 people, including 10 children.
Priya used to then live with her physically challenged father Laxman, a labourer, mother Rani, a house help, sisters Sanchita (15) and Deepa (12) and brother Parshuram (3).
When their tin-roofed tarpauline covered shanty was washed down, she was a few feet away from her parents. She was lucky to get stuck on a wooden plank and was rescued by Rani’s brother Rangesh Vitkar.
Parshuram was found dead clinging to their deceased father. They were the first ones to be dug out that night. Hours later, Rani’s body was found from the debris. Deepa was found dead by the next morning, but Priya’s eldest sister, Sanchita, battled on until afternoon. The rescue team tried to put an intravenous drip and oxygen mask to aid Sanchita who was stuck under the debries, as drilling continued. She, however, succumbed to multi-trauma injuries and drowning.
It took two months for Priya to recover from the trauma and return to school. She lost her hut, her family and belongings in the collapse. Along with Satyabama, she moved to an accommodation in Goregaon East that they rented for Rs 5,000 per month.
This year, she would have been in Class III, but with the lockdown, her school remains shut. Since March end, Satyabama has been unable to work. “Cases have increased in the area,” her daughter Sunita said. The employers have cut half of Satyabama’s salary.
Until last year, Satyabama was locked into a fight with Priya’s paternal relatives, who wanted her custody. The child was provided a compensation of Rs 25 lakh by BMC (Rs 5 lakh per victim) and Rs 30 lakh by the state government (Rs 6 lakh per victim). When both sides quarrelled over her custody, the collector’s office decided to deposit an amount on a monthly basis in a bank until Priya became an adult.
Despite repeated attempts, Mumbai Suburban Collector Milind Borikar could not be contacted for a comment.
“It was a man-made disaster triggered by heavy rainfall, followed by flooding, which led to the collapse of an unscientifically placed BMC wall,” said Bilal Khan from NGO Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan that submitted a fact-finding report to the BMC. The incident injured around 130 people and washed away houses of around 250 people.
The NGO was part of the relief efforts and had also provided financial help to 15 families who lost their houses but were not provided help by the government.
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