Thirteen deaths and blame game in the Kesarbai building collapse later, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Wednesday decided to take the responsibility of vacating or demolishing Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority’s (Mhada) dilapidated buildings in B ward, which covers Dongri.
Vivek Rahi, assistant commissioner of B ward, said, “We will check the condition of all buildings in B ward (Dongri, Pydhoni and Mohammad Ali Road) and list the dilapidated structures. The civic body will send notices under section 353 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act to dilapidated buildings to ensure they either conduct structural audits, or allow us to vacate them.”
The BMC will also write to Mhada asking for an update on the list of C1 category (unfit for habitation) buildings, and action taken. Municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi confirmed that as a policy decision, henceforth, Mhada can borrow BMC’s resources (manpower and machinery) to demolish any dilapidated or illegal building. The aim is to fast-track the process of dealing with dilapidated cess buildings. “We will closely work with other government bodies such as Mhada, to ensure rehabilitation of dilapidated buildings,” he told HT.
Mhada president Uday Samant said: “Currently, there are 14,207 buildings under Mhada, of which 23 are critically dangerous. We will look to redevelop those buildings first. We have been working on a policy with the CM for this today. The policy will be accepted before the next cabinet meeting. It states the agency concerned will redevelop a dilapidated building through the tender process. Only legal occupants of the cessed buildings will benefit from this policy.”
As per the procedure, the buildings will be demolished by a contractor with expertise in the field.
After the crash on Tuesday, the two authorities kept passing the buck over the ownership of the structure. The BMC claimed that Mhada did not inform the civic body of the dilapidated status of the century-old legal arm of Kesarbai building, named Kesarbai-C, which was vacated by Mhada two years ago. This arm is still standing, even as its illegal arm, Kesarbai-B, collapsed on Tuesday. According to the BMC, their B ward officials had written to Mhada a month ago, asking for a list of dilapidated buildings in the area. Mhada had replied with two names. Kesarbai-C was not one of them.
The BMC has now decided to demolish the vacant Kesarbai-C. “This structure was connected to the collapsed part. So it is naturally unstable,” said Rahi.
The tug-of-war between the BMC and Mhada continued despite their resolve to work together. Mhada clarified on Wednesday that it had classified the collapsed arm of Kesarbai building as illegal, and written to the BMC in 1990, drawing attention to the illegality. The BMC, on the other hand, maintained that the collapsed structure was legal and that the civic body has records of cess collection from 1994. Samant said, “The structure which collapsed is illegal and Mhada is responsible for redevelopment and rehabilitation of a legal structure that pays cess. It is the BMC’s responsibility to demolish illegal structures.”
Following outrage in the standing committee meeting in BMC, Pardeshi said: “We don’t know whether the building existed before 1994. The building was assessed on the same property card as 25 C Kesarbai building, which is the neighbouring structure, and the property card of this building (which crashed) is still the same. There is no building plan for the structure or the adjoining building.”
Redevelopment for the 65-odd tenants in the Dongri building has been stuck for two years. While Mhada vacated the legal arm of Kesarbai and gave tenants transit homes, it refused to give transit homes to residents living in the extension, which delayed the process. However, the trust handling the building recognises the arm as part of its redevelopment plan for the whole plot.
Residents of Kesarbai-C met local MLA Amin Patel on Wednesday, requesting his intervention to fast-track the redevelopment. Samant also said Mhada would demolish all illegal commercial structures in the cessed buildings. He said, “We will also provide a time-bound deadline for redevelopment and give them with rent.”