Mumbai is rapidly becoming a place for chosen few. Chosen, on the basis of money.

The rich, famous and self-proclaimed law abiding citizens of Mumbai were first shocked and then laughed at the misery of families of 75 innocent lives that were lost in a tragic building collapse in Mumbra, near Mumbai, last month.

“How ignorant can one be? Buggers should’ve checked whether the building is authorized or not. Illiterate people, I tell you,” said one of my friends on Facebook chat. He sent laughing smiley (:D) at the end of the chat.

He perhaps didn’t know that, these slum dwellers were purposely told to move inside building, to avoid demolition from civic body. It’s a win-win situation for both builder and a slum dweller. The former gets his construction legalized on humanitarian ground and the latter gets a ‘pukka’ house.

A few weeks after the Mumbra incident, came one of the ‘never heard before’ and ‘never seen before’ housing tragedies (?) of Mumbai. (The media which is usually not bothered about the demolition drives in slums, found its ‘news peg’ among the rich and upper middle class victims of Campa Cola Compound. But that we will save for later discussion.)

Following the Supreme Court verdict, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) slapped the notice of demolition on 35 floors of seven buildings of upper middle class, upmarket locality. The demolition means that 140 families will have no roof from May 2. As you must have predicted, none of them is illiterate or ignorant or poor.

They were not given water connection for past 25 years by BMC, mainly because the structures were unauthorized and that was enough for them to know that builder has cheated on them. Yet, they continued to live in those unauthorized buildings for 25 years. Ignorant, aren’t they? My friend on Facebook, please answer.

When I went for one of the press conferences arranged by these 140 families at the Campa Cola Compound, I was (and still I am) sympathetic to them. (Yeah, despite being a reporter. I do have my opinions). Then I heard one lady shouting. “Do you think we are slum dwellers? How can they throw us out like them?”

Them, I thought. Them?

Why do you think you are different? Don’t you understand that you too were as cheated and fooled by builder as those homeless families by some other builder, when he convinced them to construct slums on open plot? Just to claim that land under Slum Rehabilitation Scheme, few years later. You both wanted a house. The only difference was your class. You managed a house on 17th floor, while the homeless managed a slum besides a dumping ground. Neither his slum’s nor your flat’s plans were approved by authorities. You are no different than him. Remember that! You are all the victims of land sharks, corrupt system and the nexus between builder-authorities and politicians.

Buying a house has become almost impossible in Mumbai, for someone from middle and lower middle class background. A 2 BHK (they don’t construct 1 BHK anymore, it seems) flat will cost you, more than a crore. You need either the money or high ranked contacts. Majority of us have neither of this. (Just some extra information from unverified sources -A woman who purchased flat in a scam tainted Adarsh CHS in Mumbai, was given a loan worth Rs 80 lakh by a respected bank. Well, her salary was less than Rs 20,000. How did she manage that? Interesting, isn't it?)

After all everyone dreams about a house. Builders, politicians and authorities have used the situation wonderfully in their favour and have kept the housing prices away from the common man’s range. It is the desperation of people that is forcing them to live in worst of the conditions, many a time in unauthorized buildings.

Mumbai is rapidly becoming a place for chosen few. Chosen, on the basis of money.

After the incident in Mumbra, the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) took a decision to demolish ‘dangerous’ and ‘unauthorised’ buildings. All the political parties in the state, except for Mahrashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), called for a bandh. “It will make people homeless and they are not guilty,” they said.

You are right! But don’t you think you should have also asked for action against builders and officials who constructed these unauthorized structures? Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Shiv Sena, who had supported the bandh, did not bother to utter a single word against the builders. So obliged they are to the builders, it seems, for reasons best known to them.

Mumbai’s Golibar slum redevelopment is also one of the examples of utter disrespect to law by builders. Forged documents, threats, hooliganism and even an alleged kidnapping, tells the sad story of legitimate slum dwellers here. Alleged involvement of big politicians in the redevelopment has forced ‘independent’ media houses ignore the misery of these people. Then there are examples of Sion-Koliwada redevelopment, Ganpat Patil nagar redevelopment and the list goes on. The builder lobby has gained upper hand everywhere with the help of police, politicians and officials.

So, my dear lady from ‘n’th unauthorized floor, my humble request to you is, don’t say you are different, just because you are rich. You both are the victims. Criticise the system, which has put you in this condition, not the slum dweller.