Dongri: Breeding ground for illegal structures?
(Photo by PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP)

Mumbai: After the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) commissioner Praveen Pardeshi informed the special standing committee meeting on Wednesday that Kesarbai, the building which collapsed on Tuesday, belonged to the MHADA, an official from the housing authority has denied this was the case.

The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority official told The Free Press Journal on Thursday that the portion of Kesarbai building which came crashing down on Tuesday morning killing 13 people, was illegal and did not belong to MHADA. However, MHADA has claimed ownership of the adjacent buildings — Kesarbai-A, Iram Manzil and Hava Building.

MHADA officials have evacuated the adjacent buildings as a precautionary measure until they inspect these structures and repair them, making it fit for habitation.

“Our engineers will be inspecting the buildings and any necessary repair work will be carried out,” said the official. However, he refused to comment on the issue of rehabilitation for evacuees.

Locals also confirmed that the A wing of Kesarbai building, was earlier a single-storeyed godown, above which three more storeys were constructed.

Dongri, the most thickly populated area of Mumbai has become a hotbed of illegal construction. Buildings like Ansari Heights, Rehmaniya Manzil, Goodluck Guest House and Mehboob Mansion used to be three- and four-storeyed earlier, but the owners have added more floors to these structures, in some cases, as much as four more.

As a result, the buildings have become weak, but the local corporators and MLAs haven't batted an eyelid. Many claim, the entire B-ward has become a hub of illegal construction because officials authorise these in exchange for ‘favours’.

“You need to pay B-ward officials, after that you can add as many floors as you want, nobody interferes,” said a practising lawyer and local resident, Shoaib Sheikh.

All this rampant construction has made the locality so congested that many fear if a fire were to break out some day, there will not be enough space for fire engines to reach the spot.

BMC corporator Rais Shaikh says most illegal constructions are being carried out in the name of repair and maintenance. “Most of the extra floors were constructed in violation of BMC norms.

These have weakened the structures, as many of the buildings were built in the pre-Independence era,” said Shaikh, who grew up in the locality. B-ward officials did not say anything when asked about their future course of action to tackle the menace of illegal structures.

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