Firemen living ‘dangerously’ in planned City

NMMC has come out with that annual ritual – declaring scores of buildings dangerous and cautioning the occupants of the risk of continuing to live there. NMMC has also washed its hands off any responsibility in case the buildings crash during the monsoon, due in a fortnight.

Adivashi readers will recall that we have discussed this grave issue of buildings less than 30 years old becoming ‘dangerous’ structures and these include the APMC’s wholesale onion-potato market complex where thousands of people move in and out and the Vashi Fire Brigade building housing the staff on 24×7 emergency duty.

Firemen, who have been served with the NMMC notice, are in a Catch 22 situation. They are supposed to stay close to the fire station even after their eight-hour shift since their services could be needed at any time. And they are not permitted to stay elsewhere. Who will be responsible if their houses crash like a pack of cards? None of the authorities seem to have taken the issue seriously enough. Else, they would have built new buildings in the same premises and demolished the rickety ones.

Adivashi wonders as to what kind of urban planning is being done in this so-called city of 21st century where we can’t even secure the lives of firemen and their families. We have already pointed out the pathetic conditions of policemen’s quarters at Rabale and Belapur.

Navi Mumbai ruling family that received drubbing in the Lok Sabha poll with NCP’s Sanjeev Naik losing the seat to Shiv Sena-BJP combine, has some solace this week. In the elections held for the control of the prestigious Navi Mumbai Sports Association (NMSA), Dr Dilip Rane’s panel enjoying the blessings of Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik won all key positions. The elections are fought on panel basis with Shiv Sena’s Vithal More, an old-time associate of Naik, heading the rival panel. Congress leaders like Santosh Shetty were seen openly supporting More and campaigning for a “Parivartan” at NMSA where Naik has been the chairman for about two decades. Shetty and More have been alleging that Naik made NMSA his fortress conducting his key meetings there. But the call for change has not impacted the middle and upper middleclass members – at least at NMSA. The campaign assumed significance as both Shetty and More are strong contenders from their respective parties for the Belapur Assembly seat. Ganesh Naik is the sitting MLA here on the NCP ticket and the local Congress leadership demanded that its candidate should be allowed to contest in the next election in view of the NCP’s poor performance in the just concluded Lok Sabha poll.

Naik on his part has been telling his followers not to be provoked by the blame game and start working for the Assembly poll. “Sanjeev lost due to the nationwide wave against the UPA and we need not sulk,” Naik said putting up a brave face. Meanwhile, Sanjeev and his younger brother Sandeep, MLA from Airoli, were present at NMSA during the election process and presented a bouquet to Dr Rane’s victorious team.

NMMC finally seems to have woken up to the illegal structures coming up at Ju Gaon on the outskirts of Vashi. Adivashi has pointed out long ago that not only some unscrupulous developers are building apartments without any approvals, but are selling them to gullible people since they come cheaper as compared to flats in developed nodes. For instance, a 1BHK flat costs Rs 15-Rs 20 lakh in Ju Gaon where as the price is astronomically high at Rs 50 lakh plus in developed nodes. A one room-kitchen apartment comes for less than Rs 10 lakh and they command good rentals. One can get the gaothan area houses registered that makes the property seemingly foolproof. Obviously, the buyers are not aware that the registrations can be cancelled if found illegal.

It is about time that the authorities take affordable housing bit seriously and build mass houses at sub-Rs20 lakh level. BJP, in its manifesto, has already promised ‘Housing for All’ in eight years. But nothing can be done in the present conditions where the land cost is very high, the cost of inputs like cement and sand is going up by the day and approvals take a long time. Moreover, the cost of funding is not affordable either for developer or the buyer, says Rajesh Prajapati, noted builder and newly media convener of developers apex body CREDAI.

This is the 74th in a series on Navi Mumbai by veteran media professional B N Kumar, a long-time resident of Mumbai’s twin city. He can be contacted at: mailbnk@gmail.com

B N Kumar

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