Kochi

As towers turn to dust, Maradu residents pick up the pieces

Despite cleaning her house twice, Ayesha Ibrahimkutty says dust has settled all over again.

Despite cleaning her house twice, Ayesha Ibrahimkutty says dust has settled all over again.  

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As the onlookers applauded the perfect implosions, the residents near Alfa Serene apartments in Maradu tried to hold back a tear when the huge structure came to naught on Saturday.

“These were, after all, dwellings of people,” said Sanuraj Nedumpilly, a driver who lives a few metres from site. “Agreed that these were illegal, and we also have learnt our lessons to be more vigilant. But, it was a very disheartening sight.”

This sentiment was shared by his neighbour, Suresh Nedumpilly, an employee at Infopark. In all this exercise, the role of the municipality and the State in reassuring people had been rather poor, he said.

Sarayu, staying alone, was afraid that her house would fall apart as the impact of the demolition processes that had started months earlier had created a wide gap on the front door frame and the wall. The floor of the kitchen seemed to have sunk a bit too, she said. This was the impact when the swimming pool of the flat was demolished. “So, it was not within our imagination what would happen when the entire structure came down,” she said.

Working with a catering unit, she has moved to her daughter’s place for the time-being. A lot of cleaning and repairs had to be done, she said.

“All the people here had lived in such fear that we have decided not to allow any more construction on the site,” said Suresh. It had been a harrowing time, said Sugunan, his neighbour.

Vishnupriya, Sugunan’s daughter, wondered whether the demolition would actually save the lake and the environment, since the whole exercise was to save nature.

Suresh’s son, Abhinav, a football player, and his friends expressed hope that the place would be turned into a playground. There was no place to play here, he said.

Most residents who were born there or had been staying there for over 35 years, remembered the mangroves and the paddy fields in the place where the flats stood. Ayesha, wife of Ibrahimkutty, said she used to cut grass for the goats she reared at that time.

Suresh remembers it as a place where he had spent his childhood swimming and jumping around the mangrove roots. A major change he felt in the morning on Sunday as he came out of the house was the extra sunlight on his premises, earlier blocked by the towering flat.

Many residents wondered whether the place would become a haven for anti-social elements. With 24-hour security in the flats and lighting, the residents too had felt a bit safer.

The residents are throwing up their hands in despair as the municipality has not been of any help in cleaning the place. Most of the people came back on Saturday itself, but had left the elderly and children at a safe place since cleaning would take a day or two. Ayesha said she had cleaned the house twice, but there was dust in the atmosphere that settled all over again.

“We have to get on with our lives and cannot wait till someone else comes to help us”, said Sanuraj. “The municipality should have given the people here a place to live for the next three months till the debris is removed, because dust is going to be part of our life till the place is cleared”, he said. Leaving his wife and small children at her parents, he and his parents had returned to clean up the place.

As in most cases with the government, the bureaucratic hurdles make everything unapproachable, said Suresh. The insurance offered had a process that would not be easy for people to pursue, he said. “First, we have to get the work done to rectify the cracks and give the bill to the municipality. The sum would be given by three entities – the municipality, the State Government and the company which was involved in demolition”. He wondered whether the amount would ever be realised at all.

Benny and Sindhu, who are among the neighbours of the demolished flat, with only a small pathway separating the their properties, had come back to look at their house after the implosion. They will be coming back later as they have taken up a rented house for three months.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 2:13:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/as-towers-turn-to-dust-maradu-residents-pick-up-the-pieces/article30553127.ece

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