After the horrific building collapse in Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar area that left 33 dead, and with the blame being pushed on the Dawoodi Bohra community for failing to evict tenants when it was handed over the development rights of the building, now the members of the community in Pune are panicking over a similar predicament that could await one of their properties here in Camp area. Unwilling to take a risk after the incident on Monday, the trustees of the Anjumane-e-Burhani have written to the Pune Cantonment Board (PCB) and local police authorities, stating that the trust would not be responsible for any loss of life or property in case of any untoward event, since the tenants are unwilling to move out.
Portions of two buildings — 1138, 1139 — at Saifee Lane in Camp that belong to the community have been declared as unsafe by the PCB, who has served eviction notices on the tenants as well as the trust. In fact, in the later half of June this year, a part of the building had collapsed in the upper storey of the ground-plus-storey structure but luckily no one was hurt in the incident.
Zoher Harnesswala, joint secretary, Dawoodi Bohra Community (Camp), who is negotiating with the tenants, said, “There is apprehension and fear now over the fate of these buildings since there are heavy rains. One portion of the building has already fallen. So we have written once again to the PCB and Cantonment police to intervene and help us in evictions,” he said.
There is an ongoing discord between the tenants and the trust over the rehabilitation, the former are unwilling to vacate the premises for repairs and continue to live in precarious conditions. The tenants allege that the trustees are unwilling to commit anything in writing, which could stand as legal proof.
Mohammed Kachwala, whose senior citizen parents live in a ground-floor apartment at one of the buildings, said the trust has never given them anything in writing. “They come to talk to us verbally but refuse to give anything in writing. Unless it is written and served legally, we won’t consider it. What is the guarantee that they would stick to their word? And the trustees are not even coming forward, they send people who are completely unrelated and unauthorised to discuss things. We have demanded that we want a ground floor house only, with a door facing the mosque. They want to give us upper storey, it is not acceptable to us,” he said.
Another tenant who owns a local hardware store in the next structure said that both tenants and trustees are at fault. “Some of the tenants have fights within their own families, so they don’t come to an agreement. Many tenants keep putting new demands and won’t budge. As far as trustees go, they only want to speak verbally and will give written documentation only if we agree to their point of view,” he said.
Meanwhile, Maruti Sable, assistant engineer, PCB, said that eviction notices have been served twice. “It is unsafe to live there and we have spoken to tenants as well as trustees several times. Since tenants refuse to comply with the notices, we have sought help from the local police in this regard.”
Replying to the allegations of the tenants that no written communication is given and no legal support, Harnesswala said that a Memorandum of Understanding is being offered to be signed between tenants and trustees, over the rehabilitation of the former. “The MoU copy has been given to them and it mentions that in six months, the buildings would be repaired and they would get accommodation in same property. But every time their demands keep increasing, making it impossible to negotiate,” he claimed.