The collapse of the Kesarbai building in Dongri has underscored, once again, the plight of families who live in the 14,375 old cessed buildings in South and Central Mumbai. 10 individuals were dead, and many were trapped in the wrecked building as rescuers thronged the site on Tuesday afternoon. Mumbai building collapse LIVE UPDATES
Why does Mumbai have so many structurally unstable buildings that are put to added risk every monsoon?
The Rent Act, a legacy of the British Raj, froze rents, made it extremely difficult for landlords to evict tenants and made tenancy inheritable. Landlords, in order to generate some value from their properties, started a system of transaction called pagdi, using money as an inducement for the tenant to leave the property. The incoming tenant would pay a major chunk of the value of the property upfront, which would be shared between the old tenant and the owner. The new tenant would then move in, and start paying the existing nominal monthly rent.
With time and rising costs all around, the low rents often failed to pay even for the basic upkeep of the building. A situation emerged in which some owners lost interest entirely, and allowed the building to simply crumble. On the other hand, tenants, despite having paid substantial amounts initially, had no option but to stay on in the increasingly unsafe structures over which they did not have complete property rights.
And what are cessed buildings?
To find a solution for these dilapidated and neglected buildings, the state government appointed the Bedekar Committee, under whose instructions the Mumbai Building Repairs and Reconstruction Board (MBRRB) was set up.
As part of the solution, the Committee asked tenants of 19,642 buildings to pay a cess towards repairs to the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA). MBRRB spends close to Rs 30 crore every year to repair these buildings. The number of these ‘cessed’ buildings now stands at 14,375, dotting BMC’s Wards A to G, i.e., from Colaba to Mahim. A total 12,229 buildings were constructed prior to September 1940. 672 of these buildings have been completely redeveloped, while partial clearance or work commencement has taken place in 1,261 buildings.
What is the government’s policy for the redevelopment of these buildings?
Under Development Control Rules 33/7 (for single cessed structures) and 33/9 (for clusters of cessed buildings), the state government offers private developers a floor space index (FSI) of three and above, depending on the number of tenants. While the plan was to revamp these properties and offer a safer and better quality of living to the owners and the occupiers of such property, complaints that the developers have extracted loopholes to maximise profits have been rampant. The result: redevelopment or reconstruction of most of these properties is stuck.