To repair a crumbling home

Mumbai: In its annual pre-monsoon survey for 2017, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) has identified nine cessed buildings, of which six are listed as dilapidated and unfit for occupation. The tenants occupying these building for decades have been asked to vacate, but they claim to be ready to repair the crumbling edifices themselves if only MHADA and the BMC would allow them to do so.

Most of the residents’ associations say they have the funds ready, and only need the go-ahead. While they await the elusive permissions from these bodies, the very real need to keep the roofs above their heads, the floors beneath their feet and the walls around them intact has forced them to adopt temporary measures. These range from plastic sheets on the terrace to keep the rain from causing further damage, or tarring it over, filling in cracks that develop from time to time and weaving their existence around the bamboo that MHADA has used to provide support to sagging sections.

Document trouble

In many of the cases where tenants want to repair their buildings on their own, demands for documents often impossible to produce are proving to be setbacks. In one instance, the BMC’s Building Permission Department has sought a letter issued in 1962, which the concerned ward office says it cannot provide.

Rajendra Nakhwa, secretary, Dhoble Bhuvan on Kazi Sayyed Street, one of the buildings on MHADA’s list, said, “We received a notice from MHADA in July 2016. We approached MHADA, and have received a No Objection Certificate (NOC ) to conduct repairs on our own. However, the BMC Building Proposal Department in Wadala hasn’t given us an Intimation of Disapproval and Commencement Certificate (IOD and CC), citing lack of there is clarity on the ownership title.”

He added that though there are over 200 residents, conflicts have led to lack of clarity on the ownership title. “We have applied under Section 499 of the BMC Act, which gives tenants the authority to undertake the repairs. However, we have been denied permission as the BMC wants the list of tenants to be attested by MHADA, and several such documents. BMC can ask MHADA directly for the tenants list. How are we supposed to produce it?”

Mr. Nakhwa said the residents are awaiting the IOD and CC permission from the BMC. “The government will probably take action when this building falls on us, and offer compensation to our families. We only ask for permission to start repairs. MHADA conducted a survey last year as have our architects, who said repairs are required.”

Promod Bende, president, Dhoble Bhuvan, added, “The owner, Ganesh Dhoble, is collecting rent from tenants but owes around ₹40 lakh in cess to MHADA. We have complained to MHADA about this. There is no need to vacate the building, as they have collected around ₹2 crore, and arrangements are being made to shift to the vacant portion while one portion is repaired. More than 50% of the building is empty.”

In the meantime, Mr. Bende added, tenants are taking precautionary measures. “Last year, we used plastic sheets to cover the terrace to stop leaks during the rains. This year too, we will have to do the same if we cannot repair it. We are risking our lives.”

Shaikh Abdul Razzaq, a tenant at Fatima Bai Chawl on Bara Imam Road, said, “This is a Wakf property. We had received an NOC for repairs from the Wakf board in Aurangabad, but the High Court order in September 2011 dissolved the Wakf board. The trustees, Abdul Raheem and Abdul Kareem, had brought in the developers. They presented the Wakf board NOC in December 2011, but we don’t know how they did it.”

He added, “The Wakf board of Maharashtra went to the Supreme Court in 2012, which stayed redevelopment of Wakf properties. MHADA had sent a notice to the builders to finish repairs, but nothing has happened. MHADA cancelled the builder’s NOC in November 2016, but after six months, MHADA renewed it for a year. In these six months, MHADA could have considered the proposal for repairs. Our condition is because of MHADA and the trustees.”

Mr. Razzaq said, “We, as tenants, are taking the initiative to maintain the building, as we have no support from our trustees. From time to time, we repair the cracks with our own funds. Also, as a precautionary measure, he said, MHADA has reinforced several parts of the building with bamboo. “We live in the name of Allah. Of course, we get scared, but life and death is in the hands of Allah.”

He said, “A few years ago, two rooms on the first floor had developed cracks, which widened. A complaint was lodged with MHADA, and the rooms have been barricaded with bamboo so that children avoid this area. Where can we go? We cannot pay ₹20,000 and ₹25,000 as rent. We have a job or a business and our children have their school here.”

Esplanade Mansion in Kala Ghoda too features on the list of dilapidated buildings. Sadiq Ali Noorani, the building’s landlord, said, “There is a misunderstanding from MHADA’s end . In 2007, a report had said the building needs repairs but doesn’t have to be evacuated, and repairs can be carried out in a phased manner.”

He added, “A survey of the building was carried out by Rohan Enterprise engineers and architects, who said minor changes are required, which we want to carry out on our own. Nearly 20 years ago, MHADA had undertaken repairs for the west side balcony, but it collapsed within five years. This is why we want to do the repairs on our own.”

“We are ready with funds and materials for the project but are helpless, as BMC and the heritage department have been delaying permission since 2007 citing numerous reasons including a letter from 1962. We had written to the BMC’s A-Ward office, who said the documents are unavailable. So this is where we are now, with the BMC harassing us for letters prior to 1962, which its ward office cannot provide.”

He added, “As and when the need arises, and especially pre-monsoon, we plaster the internal walls as well as put tar on the terrace as a precautionary measure. Bamboos provide support to the building, which needs beams. We have the money for it, we only need the permission.

Also, advocate H.H Nagi, who has four offices in the building, said, “If there was any apprehension that the building is unfit for occupation, I would have left at once. I have continued to stay for 19 years because I am sure it’s not dangerous. I would not risk the lives of my juniors. I could easily shift to another location.”

At Lucky Mansion on Clare Road, Asif Kazi, its chief promoter, said, “I had filed in a complaint about the building’s poor condition before the MHADA notice in 2007. After I complained, BMC had issued an internal notice to the repair board, Kala Chowki, about the dangerous portions in our building, but they haven’t done anything about it. Around ₹40 lakh is available but MHADA claims they don’t have enough money to repair the entire building. We have been asking them to carry out structural repairs so that the building doesn’t collapse.

“In the last two years, tenants have taken the initiative to carry out the internal repairs such as internal plastering and replacing damaged girders. We do have dangerous portions such as the common lavatory area that needs repairs. Tenants were told about transit camps, but weren’t allotted any.”

A.S. Ankalgi, Resident Executive Engineer, MHADA said, “We are educating people to vacate these buildings and have been following up on a regular basis. The transit camps are available, and by the first week of June, we will try to ensure that tenants leave the buildings.”

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 11:03:23 AM |

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